David Nothmann

Growing Pains on the Way to a More Resilient Vertical Farming Industry

As we usher in the New Year, a reflection on the dynamic last few months in indoor farming news provides some insight for what to expect in 2023 and beyond. We’ve seen both contractions by organizations like Fifth Season, Kalera and Infarm reevaluating and restructuring under financial pressure, and expansion, with others like GoodLeaf, Crop One and Freight Farms securing additional funding and growing.

Some observers have suggested we’re in the “Trough of Disillusionment” (the third of five phases in the Gartner Hype Cycle) but we’re right where we should be in the development of a healthy new market. Some first movers are finding success and others are still trying to achieve operational efficiency — and in an industry based on unit economics and efficiency (particularly yield per kilowatt hour), it’s all about efficiency.

Vertical farm operations are equal parts ag and tech, and they require incredibly complex systems, including climate control, lighting, irrigation, automation and, most importantly, systems integration. That last one, systems integration, is the linchpin. It is no small task to bring together disparate technology in a cohesive and coherent way that increases productivity and reduces costs, yet “operational efficiency” is generally not highly valued by venture capital investors. Nonetheless, the most successful vertical farming organizations to date have been those closest to achieving “systemness” — a concept most often applied to the healthcare system but also applicable to modern agriculture (both traditional outdoor and controlled environment indoor). Systemness is the highest achievable state of a complex system, with interconnecting elements working together to operate in ways that go beyond the operation of its component parts. In other words, one plus one equals three.

Bowery, an innovation partner of Unfold, is an instructive example. They’ve developed their own “operating system” that harmonizes data from across their facilities and finely tunes growing conditions based on that data. The BoweryOS, as they call it, brings all their systems together under one umbrella and helps them achieve systemness. Some observers are skeptical of claims made about the development of new operating systems and the use of artificial intelligence (AI), but you can’t argue with success. Bowery has doubled their revenue for the second year in a row and is on track to double their number of farms in 2023. Their success demonstrates a high degree of operational efficiency through a data-driven approach.

Unfold 2023 Gold Sponsor Indoor Ag-Con
Unfold is an industry-leading seed and digital solutions company advancing the vertical farming industry.

But even when optimal efficiency is achieved, most vertically farmed products today still fill a premium niche, which is why strong marketing programs are key to communicating value to both consumers and investors.  Singapore based vertical farming company Sustenir, another Unfold innovation partner, is such an example. Introducing the concept of “Superfoods for Supercities,” Sustenir continues to elevate the discussion around nutrient-dense produce and the role vertical farming can play in the health and wellness of consumers. With additional operations in Malaysia and Hong Kong, Sustenir utilizes social media to connect with consumers and promote their own brands. In addition to fresh leafy greens, they “upcycle” waste streams into other products, like their Spectacular Spinach Noodles. This focus on branding and consumer packaged goods mindset is not unique to Sustenir in the vertical farming space, but they lead the Asian market in their emphasis on nutrition and sustainability.

The exciting thing to watch for over the next few years will be the shift toward parity with outdoor growers — at least in the product categories most conducive to vertical farming. We’re going to see a gradual but significant reduction on the cost side, as operations become more efficient, more data is collected and used, and technology costs decline. The very technology that made vertical farming possible in the first place — climate control systems, irrigation systems, and especially LED lighting systems — has steadily fallen in cost and is continuing a downward trend even in the midst of global inflationary pressures. Do you recall when the traditional A-shape LED bulb was introduced at a cost of around $30? Now they’re $3-4 — a 10-fold drop. Here’s how United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) partner U4E describes the advancement: “Technologies for artificial lighting have made tremendous progress … from incandescent lamps, with a visible efficacy of about 10 lumen/watt, to compact fluorescent lighting with 50 lumen/watt, to the LED lamps as we know today of 110 lumen/watt to finally, this new LED breakthrough with incredible efficiency levels – 210 lumen/watt” (emphasis mine).

Even energy — the often-cited Achilles heel of vertical farming — will drop in cost over time as more renewables come online and farms become even more efficient in their energy use. Granted, the average retail price of electricity has risen over the past several years, which is why operators work so hard to secure a stable energy price. In the US, commercial electricity costs have risen roughly 7% from 2014 to 2021 according to Statista and remain on an upward trajectory, while industrial electricity has gone up about 2% over the same time frame. The increase is even higher in other places like Europe and Singapore. We believe co-location of large vertical farms with energy production will drive further efficiencies and cost reductions. This concept, advanced initially by Unfold CEO Sonia Lo, is captured in part in her interview by Greenhouse Grower, titled “Four Concentric Circles of Controlled-Environment Agriculture.” Keep in mind that these things are taking place in the context of an increasingly volatile climate that makes the predictability of indoor farming more and more attractive.

Unfold Indoor Ag-Con 2023 Gold Sponsor

Just as important as reducing costs, we need to continue to boost vertical farming’s productivity.  That’s where Unfold’s work comes in to play. We adamantly believe that productivity starts with better seeds, because even the most efficiently operated and technologically integrated vertical farm can’t afford to produce products from seeds that don’t perform optimally indoors. Our first step has been to screen existing seed libraries to identify the varieties most likely to succeed in indoor environments. With our exclusive license to Bayer genetics in lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers, we have a world-class library from which to choose. Using this approach, we will launch a few new romaine varieties in 2023 based on seed lines showing promising traits for vertical farming. Initial tests indicate strong harvest yield numbers and highly consistent saleable yield.

Our second step is to use all the tools of modern breeding to develop novel varieties with the most desired traits. Most genetics for leafy greens thus far have been developed for open field environments, with traits that protect plants from diseases and pests, as well as certain environmental stresses. Unfold is focusing on traits critical for indoor production both from an agronomic and produce quality perspective. In addition to utilizing existing Bayer germplasm, Unfold can access the full Bayer pipeline of genetic diversity to develop novel products honed for indoor production. Finally, as we accumulate performance data across our selection and breeding pipelines, we’re building our AI and data analytics platform to produce new high-performing products for indoor farming customers more quickly.

Tasty Romaine Unfold
Tasty romaine lettuce grown from Unfold seeds

For all of these reasons, Unfold is as confident as ever in the long-term success of vertical farming. As the industry matures, some organizations will succeed and expand while others struggle, contract, restructure or even ultimately fail. Over time, the balance will shift, as companies demonstrating operational excellence will continue to grow and new players learn what works and what doesn’t. That’s the development of a healthy new market. You can see it in the fact that the vertical farming industry is expanding beyond leafy greens into strawberries, tomatoes, and other high value crops.

Vertical farming will always be a supplement and not a replacement for traditional agriculture, but with a global population recently surpassing 8 billion and showing no sign of slowing, it will become an ever more important one — particularly as climate change creates additional pressures on the global food supply. Protected from the ravages of flood, drought, and pests, and closer to the urban centers demanding more fresh, local food, the niche that vertical farming fills right now will only grow. The headwinds currently slowing the industry’s growth are not permanent. Energy prices will eventually stabilize as farms secure their own renewable sources while continuing to improve efficiency through peer learning and technological advancement.

So, let’s be clear-eyed and not disillusioned moving forward. The vertical farming industry is right where it should be. Let’s continue to work together to address some key market needs and add value to consumers.

Have a taste for more? Please visit our website at www.unfold.ag and follow us on social media: Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube. Let’s seed the way forward, together.

Contacts:

David Nothmann, COO Unfold

pr@unfold.com

Kimberly Esterkin

Addo Investor Relations, unfold@addo.com

Arama Kukutai CEO Plenty

5 Questions With Plenty CEO Arama Kukutai

Indoor Ag-Con is excited to welcome Plenty CEO Arama Kukutai to our keynote stage to give the opening morning  address on Monday, February 27, 2023.  Ahead of his keynote, we asked  Arama about some of the company’s exciting developments;  the challenges, trends and opportunities he sees for our industry; and what’s next for Plenty.  Read more in this month’s CEO Q&A:

In  September of 2022 Plenty announced plans to build the world’s largest indoor vertical farm campus near Richmond, VA.  Can you share more details on this exciting project?

We’re building a first-of-its-kind campus of indoor vertical farms, which is significant for a few reasons. The structure of a cluster of farms on a shared site creates increased efficiencies as well as the opportunity to grow a wider variety of crops at scale on a single site. The Plenty Richmond Farm Campus has a potential annual production capacity of more than 20 million pounds of fresh produce. First up is our strawberry farm, which we broke ground on last fall and expect to deliver berries in market with our partner Driscoll’s in 2024.

Plenty and Indoor Ag-Con

Speaking of growth, can you also share any updates on your Compton, CA  farm – including why you selected that location and how it fits into Plenty’s mission and growth strategy? 

We want to be a part of building a food future where everyone has affordable access to fresh produce. The Plenty Compton Farm, which will be fully operational this year, is our first commercial farm, so it’s the culmination of nearly a decade of R&D and a major step forward in scaling our growing capabilities. We’re proud to be bringing agriculture back to Compton, and working with local retailers to increase affordable access to our produce for California and the western U.S.

In your opinion, what are the key challenges that the CEA/Vertical Farm industry must overcome?

Achieving scale, and scaling with positive unit economics, is the key challenge vertical farming has to overcome to be a permanent part of our food system. Energy consumption is also a challenge for our industry, so it’s important to prioritize energy efficiency as well as choose locations with access to cleaner energy sources.

As Co-Founder of Finistere Ventures, a venture firm dedicated to Agrifood investment, what trends or innovations in the industry are you most excited about?

There’s so much innovation happening to shape a new future for food that is more sustainable and equitable. The last decade saw more than $120 billion invested in innovation, now it’s time to demonstrate the commercial proof points. I’m most excited about the development of a hybrid agriconomy that brings together vertical farming, cultivation and fermentation to scale food production in ways that are better for the planet.

Plenty and Indoor Ag-Con 2023What’s next for Plenty?

Our focus for the immediate future  is applying our technology and plant science R&D to commercial farms so we can scale our reach here in the U.S. and build our first international site. Beyond that, we’re continuing to expand our plant science innovation work to diversify the crops we have in market – strawberries are coming next, tomatoes and more are on the horizon. We are also going to announce new partnerships around financing the indoor asset class.

To learn more about Plenty, visit the website.  And, make plans to join us for the 10th Anniversary Edition of Indoor Ag-Con, February 27-28, 2023 to hear Arama’s keynote address AND be part of the largest vertical farming & controlled environment agriculture gathering in the USA!  Learn more. 

Rick Vanzura Freight Farms

The Future Of CEA Is Our Shared Responsibility

People work and harvest in Freight Farms’ container farm, the Greenery™ S

Hi, I’m Rick Vanzura, CEO of Freight Farms. Our vision is a world in which resilient and self-sufficient communities grow through local food and sustainable food systems, which we strive to make a reality through our indoor farming technology. We build our hydroponic farms inside 40’ x 8’ shipping containers that are precisely controlled and climate independent. Each container farm enables farmers to produce 2+ acres of fresh, hyper-local food annually, no matter where in the world they put the farm. This distributed model is central to Freight Farms’ mission. As part of a decentralized network, Freight Farmers — who make up the largest IoT-connected network of commercial farms — have access to the knowledge and support of other growers from around the world via our farmhand® software. This includes hundreds of for-profit, educational, and nonprofit farmers.

A container farm in transit to the Bahamas, where it is being put to work growing produce for the community.

Over the last year, an increased focus on a return for the billions of dollars invested has put the indoor agriculture industry under pressure. This was inevitable and is, to some extent, welcome. It will force all of us to be much more focused on strong business models, energy consumption, and wise allocation of resources. It also will encourage the industry to work together to highlight the advantages of controlled environment agriculture and indoor farming in both the near and distant future. Issues of declining land and water availability will not go away. The population will not stop increasing. Climate change is a reality. We will need all forms of agriculture to mitigate these issues and feed the planet.

Freight Farms
Freight Farms’ container farm, the Greenery™ S, alight with high-power, high-efficiency LED grow lights.

I hope to see many of you at Indoor Ag Con, where we can continue to explore the issues and opportunities facing the industry and find ways to collaborate. CEA and indoor farming take many forms, but we share a common goal of providing climate-independent access to food around the world. Let’s tackle the pressing issues of energy usage and business model viability to continue to prove our value to both consumers and the planet. As the current investor climate illustrates, we have no time to waste. A win for any of us is a win for all of us.

About Freight Farms:

Freight FarmsFounded in 2012, Freight Farms debuted the first vertical hydroponic farm built inside an intermodal shipping container with the mission of democratizing and decentralizing the local production of fresh, healthy food. Since its inception, Freight Farms has refined its product offering to arrive at the Greenery™ S container farm. With global customers ranging from small business farmers to the corporate, hospitality, retail, education, and nonprofit sectors, Freight Farmers make up the largest network of connected farms in the world. AgTech Breakthrough named Freight Farms the 2022 “IoT Monitoring Solution of the Year” for its farmhand® IoT automation software.

 

To learn more, visit freightfarms.com , an 2023 Indoor Ag-Con sponsor or connect on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, or TikTok.

good natured® Provides High-tech Growers with Plant-based Packaging to Maximize Positive Environmental Impact

good natured Products Inc. (the “Company” or “good natured®”) (TSX-V: GDNP), a North American leader in earth-friendly plant-based products and Indoor Ag-Con 2023 exhibitor (booth 228) continues to grow its market traction with fast-growing food producers who are taking a fresh approach to supplying plant-based, nutritional foods to communities across North America. A growing population, changing climate conditions and consumers’ desire to support local suppliers is creating opportunity for innovative food producers to introduce new crops and next-gen sustainable agriculture practices that are easier on the planet than some traditional growing methods.

One customer, Heron Farms in South Carolina, is turning sea level rise into sustainable agriculture, one delicious Sea Bean at a time. Heron Farms is North America’s premiere indoor saltwater vertical farm that grows salt-tolerant crops such as sea beans, sea pickles and sea asparagus using predictive software and cutting-edge automated data collection and analysis methods. At the forefront of sustainable farming practices, Heron Farms distributes to retail, restaurants, and food service industries throughout 14 US states.

“We’re on a mission to solve two of the 21st century’s largest environmental problems, rising sea water levels and excess carbon dioxide. We strategically chose plant-based packaging from good natured® as the best option to extend our brand values beyond the product we produce all the way through to the packaging itself,” explained Sam Norton, Founder and CEO of Heron Farms.

Meanwhile, ColdAcre in Whitehorse, Yukon is taking sustainable growing practices to the next level by providing year-round fresh food and growing solutions for far northern climates. ColdAcre provides wholesale and commercial fresh grown food in plant-based, certified compostable packaging from good natured®, which is distributed through small independent grocers through to large chains, such as Save-On-Foods in the Yukon. ColdAcre is the only year-round food producer of greens in the Yukon and sells their farming system across Canada and the Arctic. Their systems source local jobs, reduce supply chain dependency and bring high-quality fresh produce to communities making them more self-sufficient and sustainable.

Indoor Ag-Con 2023 Exhibitor Good Natured“We made it a mandate when we started ColdAcre that we wouldn’t contribute to the single-use plastics problem that’s top of mind for many Canadians. We’ve been very pleased to be able to work with our like-minded partner good natured® as we prepare to triple our production in the coming months and offer our products in plant-based, compostable packaging,” said Tarek Bos-Jabber, CEO of ColdAcre.

The good natured® corporate profile can be found at: investor.goodnaturedproducts.com

About good natured Products Inc.
good natured® is passionately pursuing its goal of becoming North America’s leading earth-friendly product company by offering the broadest assortment of eco-friendly options made from plants instead of petroleum. We’re all about making it easy and affordable for business owners and consumers to switch to better everyday products® made from renewable materials and free from chemicals of concern.

Part of the sustainable consumer goods market, good natured® offers over 400 products and services through wholesale and retail channels, including our own e-commerce stores. From plant-based home organization products to compostable food containers, bioplastic industrial supplies and medical packaging, we’re focused on delivering a great customer experience to make more plant-based products readily accessible to more people as the path to deliver meaningful environmental and social impact.

For more information: goodnaturedproducts.com

Surna Releases White Paper

Surna Releases the Cultivator’s Guide to Grow Room Layout & Design

When it comes to designing your grow room layout, the possibilities can feel overwhelming. Where do you begin, and how will you make your design and equipment choices?

The Cultivator’s Guide to Grow Room Layout & Design

Time is money, and grow room layouts will have a direct effect on the quality of your crop, as well as the efficiency of your labor and overall operating costs. Surna has released this free educational resource for you to dive into the key components of a successful grow and to visualize which options make sense for your business.

Gain insight from engineering and design experts. Compare four example layout configurations modeled from a real commercial cultivation client. Find out how your layout might affect the canopy size, space utilization, architectural considerations, lighting requirements, HVACD design needs, and operations planning.

Download your free whitepaper today.

Surna WhitePaper

Helping Growers Bring Their Visions to Life

The success of your indoor farm will largely depend on the decisions you make before breaking ground. Surna Cultivation Technologies provides comprehensive indoor ag services and equipment to suit every unique grower’s needs.

With over 16-years of experience in controlled environment agriculture (CEA), Surna can guide you in creating the cultivation facility you’ve imagined, keeping your budget in mind. Streamline the planning and buildout process, then see your yields and profits grow!

As your one-stop-shop for equipment and services in CEA, Surna provides everything you need to get growing including architectural design, MEP engineering, HVAC systems, benching and racking, lighting, controls and automation, water treatment, and more! Find out how Surna can help bring your cultivation facility to life: watch now.

 

Meet Surna Cultivation Technologies In-Person at the 2023 Indoor Ag-Con

Are you planning to launch an indoor farm? Are you expanding or optimizing your existing facility? Surna invites you to stop by booth #807 at the 2023 Indoor Ag-Con located in Las Vegas, Nevada. An expert representative will be waiting to discuss your goals and begin evaluating which indoor ag solutions are the best fit for your needs.

Visit surna.com to learn more.

AeroFarms WWF

AeroFarms Continues National and Global Expansion With New Farms Coming in the St. Louis Region and Qatar

AeroFarms, award-winning leader in indoor vertical farming, has recently released plans to build a next-gen indoor smart farm in the St. Louis region in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund. In an effort to create a more distributed and resilient food system, AeroFarms will construct a roughly 150,000 square foot indoor vertical farm that will produce several million pounds of produce annually. This farm will use up to 95% less water and 99% less land while producing 390x the yield per square foot compared to traditional field farming. To read the full Indoor Soilless Farming Report from World Wildlife Fundclick here.

In addition, AeroFarms has proudly announced a new expansion in partnership with Qatar Free Zones Authority to build a new commercial indoor vertical farm that will meet Qatar’s growing appetite for fresh, sustainably grown leafy greens + address the growing need for regional agriculture production and climate resiliency throughout the MENA region. Over the last century, the MENA region has experienced significant population growth, yet the region contains less than 2% of the world’s renewable freshwater resources. AeroFarms expansion in partnership with QFZA will increase regional agriculture production, growing fresh produce in arid conditions with up to 95% less water.

Read the full story on AeroFarms Qatar expansion!

 

Jiffy Group at Indoor Ag-Con 2023

Jiffy Group: Growing Media Solution for CEA

Soil and water are the two most crucial resources for feeding the world’s expanding population. For this reason, more people may be able to be fed with fewer resources by adopting the practice of Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA).

The Global controlled environment agriculture substrate market is projected to witness a Y-o-Y growth of 15.1% in 2027*. That’s why Controlled environment agriculture (CEA) is an exciting segment in horticulture.

What Jiffy solutions are best for CEA?

Jiffy GroupJiffy Growing Solutions Logo is renowned for the outstanding quality of its growing media.

Growers know they can rely on Jiffy year in year out to supply them with a wide range of solutions that are clean, safe, sustainable, and innovative. Jiffy got decades of experience selling to greenhouse growers, and products like Preforma, Growbags, and Pellets are clean and easy to use, with organic options.

*Report from Dee Market Insights Pvt. Ltd.

See Jiffy Group at the February 27-28, 2023 edition of Indoor Ag-Con in booth 918.

Visit the Jiffy Group website to read the full story!

Equilibrium CEO Dave Chen Indoor Ag-Con Keynote

Equilibrium CEO Dave Chen Joins CEO Keynote Line-Up For Las Vegas 2023 Indoor Ag-Con

Equilibrium CEO Dave Chen will lead the day two opening morning keynote address for the 10th annual edition of Indoor Ag-Con, February 27-28, 2023, at Caesars Forum, Las Vegas, NV. Themed “The Future of Farming Grows Here,” the largest vertical farming & controlled environment agriculture (CEA) gathering in the United States will give attendees the opportunity to hear from Chen and other thought leaders from today’s top farms and CEA companies; enjoy terrific networking opportunities; and explore new resources from a significantly expanded exhibitor roster.

The keynote address will be held Tuesday, February 28, 2023 at 8:00 AM.

“We are excited to have Dave Chen kick off day two of our February 2023 edition,” says Brian Sullivan, CEO, Indoor Ag-Con. “Controlled environment agriculture is at an inflection moment in the sector’s    growth and development, and Dave will offer valuable insights into the realities and opportunities the industry faces as we move forward.”

Founded in 2008, Equilibrium Capital has built a platform of real assets-focused, sustainability-driven investment strategies for institutional investors. Equilibrium currently manages $2 billion in two portfolio strategies: Carbon Transition Infrastructure and Controlled Environment Foods.

Dave is Equilibrium’s CEO and serves on the boards of several of its fund portfolio companies.  He started his career at Solectron, McKinsey, and as a general partner with OVP Venture Partners.  He served on the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank Board system until 2012, and was a board member of B Labs until 2018.  Dave has, for 14 years, been a professor at Northwestern’s Kellogg Business School equipping students for sustainable investing.

2023 CONFERENCE SCHEDULE FEATURES NEW FORMATS, 70+ SPEAKERS
Chen’s presentation joins the Indoor Ag-Con 2023 CEO headliner keynote line-up, which also includes the opening morning kick-off session with Arama Kukutai, CEO, Plenty.  Look for another announcement coming soon about the event’s third keynote address. In addition to these headliner keynotes, the 2023 educational conference will also feature insightful panel sessions featured within three comprehensive educational tracks – grower; trends & innovation; and funding & guidance. Attendees can also look forward to new friendly debate formats and fireside chats, too.

EXPANDED EXHIBIT FLOOR
2023 will welcome the largest number of exhibitors in the event’s 10-year history. From irrigation and LED lighting to environmental control systems, substrates, greenhouse equipment, energy solutions, business services and more, attendees will have the chance to see the latest introductions and innovations from vertical farming and controlled environment agriculture leaders in 174 booths.

CO-LOCATION WITH NATIONAL GROCERS ASSOCATION SHOW
Indoor Ag-Con will once again co-locate with the National Grocers Association (NGA) Show, the leading trade show and conference for independent grocers, offering even more networking and business opportunities for attendees and exhibitors alike. The NGA Show and Indoor Ag-Con visitors will have the opportunity to explore both exhibit halls as part of the full conference pass offerings.

MORE NETWORKING
Exhibitors and attendees can enjoy complimentary luncheons on the show floor each day, a show floor cocktail reception, breakout sessions and other opportunities to reconnect with friends and meet new business partners.

QUICK FACTS:
WHEN: Monday, February 27 – Tuesday, February 28, 2023
WHERE: Caesars Forum, 3911 Koval Lane, Las Vegas, NV 89101
INFO: For information on exhibiting or attending visit www.indoor.ag or email suzanne@indoor.ag

ABOUT INDOOR AG-CON LLC
Indoor Ag-Con is the largest US trade event for vertical farming | indoor agriculture |controlled environment agriculture, the practice of growing crops in indoor systems, using hydroponic, aquaponic and aeroponic techniques. Its events are crop-agnostic and touch all sectors of the business, covering produce, legal cannabis | hemp, alternate protein and non-food crops. More information: www.indoor.ag

Arama Kukutai, the CEO of Plenty, will give the opening morning keynote address on February 27, 2023 at 8:00 AM PT at Indoor Ag-Con 2023.

Plenty CEO Arama Kukutai To Kick Off Indoor Ag-Con 2023 With Opening Morning Keynote Address

JANUARY 4, 2023 – Plenty CEO Arama Kukutai will lead the opening morning keynote address for the 10th Anniversary edition of Indoor Ag-Con, February 27-28, 2023 at the Caesars Forum Conference Center, Las Vegas, NV.   Themed “The Future of Farming Grows Here,” the largest vertical farming & controlled environment agriculture (CEA) gathering in the United States will give attendees the opportunity to hear from Kukutai and other thought leaders from today’s top farms and CEA companies; enjoy terrific networking opportunities; and explore new resources from a significantly expanded exhibitor roster.

“We are thrilled to welcome Arama Kukutai to our keynote stage as we kick off our 10th anniversary edition,” says Brian Sullivan, CEO, Indoor Ag-Con. “Arama is a visionary leader in the field of sustainable agriculture and we can’t wait to hear about the latest developments and expansion plans for Plenty, as well as his insights and perspectives on the future of farming and food production.”

Kukutai’s address will immediately follow the Indoor Ag-Con General Session Welcome at 8:00 am PT on Monday, February 27, 2023.

In his role as CEO of Plenty, Kukutai leads the company’s progress toward its mission to grow fresh food for everyone with the most technologically advanced indoor vertical farms in the world . An active speaker, writer and thought leader in Agrifood sustainability, technology innovation and investment trends, he brings vast global operating experience to Plenty as it transitions from research to commercial operations.

Kukutai has been an investor, company founder and entrepreneur in the Agribusiness sector for more than 20 years. He is the co-founder of Finistere Ventures, one of the pioneering venture firms dedicated to Agrifood investment and an early investor in Plenty. He led the creation of Finistere’s international portfolio and expansive global network in AgTech, establishing Finistere offices in Agrifood epicenters around the globe including New Zealand, Tel Aviv, San Diego, Silicon Valley and Ireland. Previously, he served as founder and Executive Chairman of PKW Farms, developing and operating sustainable grass-based dairy farming and aquaculture activities across New Zealand, Asia and Australia.

ROBUST 2023 CONFERENCE SCHEDULE, NEW FORMATS NOW IN DEVELOPMENT

In addition to Arama Kukutai’s opening morning keynote, look for additional announcements coming soon on other keynote presentations planned for the February edition. The 2023 educational conference will feature 3 headliner keynotes and insightful panel sessions featured within three comprehensive educational tracks – grower; trends & innovation; and funding & guidance. In addition, attendees can look forward to new friendly debate formats and fireside chats, too.

EXPANDED EXHIBIT FLOOR

2023 will welcome the largest number of exhibitors in the event’s 10-year history. From irrigation and LED lighting to environmental control systems, substrates, greenhouse equipment, energy solutions, business services and more, attendees will have the chance to see the latest introductions and innovations from vertical farming and controlled environment agriculture leaders in 174 booths.

CO-LOCATION WITH NATIONAL GROCERS ASSOCATION SHOW

Indoor Ag-Con will once again co-locate with the National Grocers Association (NGA) Show, the leading trade show and conference for independent grocers, offering even more networking and business opportunities for attendees and exhibitors alike. The NGA Show and Indoor Ag-Con visitors will have the opportunity to explore both exhibit halls as part of the full conference pass offerings.

MORE NETWORKING

Exhibitors and attendees can enjoy complimentary luncheons on the show floor each day, a show floor cocktail reception, breakout sessions and other opportunities to reconnect with friends and meet new business partners.

QUICK FACTS:

WHEN: Monday, February 27 – Tuesday, February 28, 2023
WHERE: Caesars Forum, 3911 Koval Lane, Las Vegas, NV 89101
INFO: For information on exhibiting or attending visit www.indoor.ag or email suzanne@indoor.ag

ABOUT INDOOR AG-CON LLC

Indoor Ag-Con is the largest US trade event for vertical farming | indoor agriculture |controlled environment agriculture, the practice of growing crops in indoor systems, using hydroponic, aquaponic and aeroponic techniques. Its events are crop-agnostic and touch all sectors of the business, covering produce, legal cannabis | hemp, alternate protein and non-food crops. More information: www.indoor.ag

Crop One CEA Craig Ratajczyk

‘Making Global Food Local’ | Q&A With Crop One CEO Craig Ratajczyk

Last week Crop One announced the opening of its second U.S. farm, located in Hazle Township, Pennsylvania.    Earlier this year, it partnered with Emirates Flight Catering to open the world’s largest vertical farm in Dubai.  The company is also raising the bar in the plant science arena with its Plants First ™ approach, other innovations and truly putting its marketing phrase “Making Global Food Local” in action.  Indoor Ag-Con is excited to welcome Crop One CEO Craig Ratajczyk  to our growing speaker roster for the upcoming February 2023 edition. And, we had the chance to catch up Craig in this month’s CEO Q&A to learn more about the company’s exciting developments and plans.

Emerites-Crop One Earlier this year, Crop One and its partner Emirates Flight Catering celebrated the opening of ECO 1 (Emirates Crop One), the world’s largest vertical farm in Dubai. Can you share a little about your mission and goals for this incredible new facility?

Given the arid land and climate, the UAE currently imports over 85% of its fresh produce, with over 30,000 tons of leafy greens imported each year. One of our goals is for ECO 1 to increase food security and food sovereignty in the region by providing sustainably-grown leafy greens to the UAE market. It’s a 330,000-square-foot facility, spanning three floors with an output of about 3 tons per day, and over one million plants being grown at any given time. Hydroponic cultivation uses up to 95% less water than traditional outdoor farming, which gets to another one of our goals for the new facility: to bring fresh, local produce to areas that might not otherwise have access to it given the harsh desert climate.

ECO 1 serves as a strong proof point for how additional vertical farms could be scaled and replicated around the globe, meeting consumer demand and providing food sovereignty to any region that needs it.

There’s a good bit of talk about innovation in the vertical farming arena these days.  What is Crop One up to and what differentiates you from some of the other leaders in the marketplace today?

Crop One is leading the way when it comes to advances in plant science, and we’re particularly excited about a new plant-based protein that we’re researching alongside fellow industry experts. We are confident that this new innovation will open up additional market opportunities. We look forward to sharing more about this in the coming weeks.

Emerites -Crop OneDuring Indoor Ag-Con, you’ll be participating in our “Food Security Through CEA” panel.  What is one of the key messages you hope to share during this session?

The threats to our global food security are steadily increasing — a rapidly growing global population (as you probably saw, we just surpassed the 8 billion mark), declining arable land, climate change and increasingly severe weather events, and continued supply chain disruptions. These conditions are endangering the food futures of people all over the world, particularly those in places where they might not have the infrastructure or resources needed to overcome new food challenges. One of the key messages I hope to share during the session is that with so many of these threats entirely out of our control, we must focus on new technologies that can overcome — not eliminate — these hurdles. While traditional outdoor agriculture may have worked for the last millennia, it’s not the solution to sustain us into the future.

Emerites-Crop OneCrop One sells its fresh, local produce to 30+ US retail stores under the FreshBox Farms brand. Your marketing for the brand highlights   Crop One’s “ Plants First” ™ approach.   What is that and why is an important part of your messaging?

Unlike other vertical farming companies, Crop One has a Plants First™approach, which recognizes that advances in technology and plant science are synergistic, so the main focus is how to effectively and efficiently grow plants in an artificial environment based on their biology. Only then do we automate the process. The Plants First approach takes a few factors into consideration including plant science, digital systems and innovation, operational efficiency and hardware, together all ensuring that we create the most nutritious and tasty product on the market.

 

Crop One PA Farm

 

What’s Next for Crop One – plans for expansion?

Excitingly, we just announced our second U.S. farm, located in Hazle Township, Pennsylvania. The 316,000-square-foot facility allows us to reach up to 50 million consumers within a 200-mile radius across the tristate and Mid-Atlantic areas, including customers in New York City, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. This new farm will allow us to meet growing retailer demand, while also introducing new consumers across the tristate area to the benefits of hydroponically grown produce.

Learn more about Crop One by visiting the website.

And be sure to put Craig’s Indoor Ag-Con 2023 panel session on your schedule:

Food Security Through CEA
10 am – 10:50 AM PST | Monday, February 27
See Full Conference Schedule