HERE WE GROW AGAIN
Ag-tech startups are building innovative indoor farming systems
Ag-tech companies are disrupting traditional agriculture by creating systems and technologies that allow them to circumvent mother nature. These startups have created indoor farms that rely on fewer resources while yielding produce year-round, contributing to sustainability and to efforts to resolve food insecurity.
San Francisco-based startup Plenty plans to help China address its food safety issues with its innovative vertical farming system. Plenty grows organic produce in indoor vertical farms that utilize 20-foot-tall LED-lit towers, requiring zero soil, pesticides, or natural sunlight. Plenty will build 300 farms in or around major Chinese cities––fulfilling middle-class demand for organic produce––along with two centers in Beijing and Shanghai where customers can sample the different offerings. Plenty will also expand its operations in the U.S. with a 100,000 square-foot farm in Seattle where it plans to grow 4.5 million pounds of produce in a year.
Bowery Farming is defying the limits of traditional agriculture with its high-tech approach to growing produce. The ag-tech startup uses robotics, LED lighting, computer vision, sensors, and data analytics to grow a wide range of greens. Because the produce is housed in a controlled environment and production isn’t restricted by seasons, unpredictable weather, pests, or disease, the company can grow 365 days a year and yield 100 times more than outdoor farming. The company’s growing system uses zero pesticides and 95% less water than would a traditional farm of the same size, which should curry favor with young consumers who like to support sustainability.
Ag-tech start up Aggressively Organic is on a mission to alleviate food insecurity by providing more affordable kitchen gardens. While hydroponic systems often require pumps and air filters, Aggressively Organic’s simple cardboard planters don’t. The kits come with seeds planted in a small pod of coconut coir (a fibrous coconut water byproduct), and then placed in a cardboard container under special lights that are included with the system. At $139 it may not be easily affordable to food insecure populations yet, but the company is working on a service model that would deliver customers a six-pack of ready-to-harvest plants and allow them to exchange them up to 24 times a month for $50.