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Viraj Puri Gotham Greens

Produce Grower Magazine: Rooftop Empire

This full article by Mike Zawaki was published by Produce Grower in April 2024

Produce GrowerFor greenhouse growers, the siren song of growth and expansion is undeniable. It whispers increased yields, broader markets and greater financial stability. But like any seductive melody, it masks a treacherous undertow. While brimming with potential, challenges lurk unseen, ready to overwhelm with complexities, resource strains and logistical nightmares.

(Photo Above- Gotham Greens CEO Viraj Puri, copyright Gotham Greens) 

A fundamental entrepreneurial principle, especially relevant for greenhouse growers, is that expansion should be a deliberate strategic decision, not solely a reaction to opportunity. This principle rings true for Brooklyn, New York-based Gotham Greens, which has navigated numerous recent expansion projects with calculated precision. Led by the visionary leadership of co-founders Viraj Puri (CEO) and Eric Haley (CFO) and Chief Greenhouse Officer Jenn Frymark and supported by a dedicated internal team of horticulture pros, Gotham Greens carefully examined every expansion challenge and established effective best practices. This has empowered the grower to overcome the complexities of a revolutionary way of growing and providing fresh produce in the U.S.

Today, Gotham Greens is synonymous with urban agriculture and cutting-edge, sustainable growing practices, and its growth and expansion wouldn’t be done justice without highlighting its rapid ascent in the greenhouse grower market.

Its legacy is rooted in the heart of Brooklyn, New York, an urban, culturally diverse foodie paradise. In 2009, Puri and Haley collaborated on a shared dream to provide fresh, pesticide-free, sustainably grown produce directly to local communities. Two years later, the vision materialized on a Greenpoint neighborhood rooftop with Gotham Greens’ first 15,000-square-foot soilless hydroponic greenhouse, marking a milestone in traditional farming. At its heart, this revolutionary model addressed long-held agricultural challenges — how to overcome long distances, mitigate environmental impact and provide greater access to fresh, locally produced foods.

Continue Reading From Produce Grower…

CEA Summit 2024

3rd Annual Controlled Environment Agriculture Summit East Returns to IALR in Danville, Virginia  October 1-2, 2024

CEA Summit Brings Academia and Greenhouse, Vertical Farm, Urban Ag, Other CEA Business Sectors Together To Spur Industry Collaboration, Innovation

The Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) Summit East returns to the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) Conference Center in Danville, Virginia from October 1-2, 2024. Co-hosted by Indoor Ag-Con, the leading trade show and conference for the vertical farming | greenhouse | CEA sector, and the Virginia Tech (VT)-IALR CEA Innovation Center, a joint project of the IALR and Virginia Tech’s School of Plant and Environmental Sciences and Virginia Seafood Agricultural Research and Extension Center, the summit continues to serve as a premier platform for industry collaboration and innovation.

Building on the success of its 2023 edition, which attracted attendees from 33 US states, Canada, the Netherlands and Sweden, the 3rd Annual CEA Summit East is set to unite professionals once again from academia, business, and technology within the CEA industry. Attendees include greenhouse growers, urban agriculture operations, vertical farms, outdoor growers seeking hybrid growing opportunities, educators, scientists, Virginia Cooperative Extension personnel, suppliers, engineers, tech specialists, architects/developers, government officials, and other industry members.

“Our partnership with the VT-IALR CEA Innovation Center underscores our commitment to fostering an environment where industry leaders and academia come together to drive innovation and explore new opportunities within the CEA sector,” says Brian Sullivan, CEO, Indoor Ag-Con.

With a focus on facilitating meaningful connections and knowledge exchange, the summit will feature keynote presentations, panel discussions, networking/breakout sessions, and tabletop exhibits highlighting the latest advancements in CEA technology and practices. Attendees can also look forward to research facility tours, providing firsthand insights into cutting-edge research and development initiatives.

“The CEA Summit serves as a platform for showcasing the collaborative efforts between industry and academia in advancing CEA research and education,” adds Dr. Scott Lowman, Co-Director of the VT-IALR CEA Innovation Center and Vice President of Applied Research at IALR. “We are eager to continue driving the momentum of the CEA industry and providing attendees with valuable opportunities for learning, networking, and growth.”

For more information on the 3rd Annual CEA Summit East, including registration, speaking and exhibit opportunities, visit the event website at www.ceasummit.com.

ABOUT INDOOR AG-CON

Founded in 2013, Indoor Ag-Con has emerged as the largest trade show and conference for vertical farming | greenhouse |controlled environment agriculture. 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, visit www.indoor.ag.

ABOUT THE VIRGINIA TECH – CEA INNOVATION CENTER

The Virginia Tech-IALR Controlled Environment Agriculture Innovation Center is a joint project between IALR and Virginia Tech’s School of Plant and Environmental Sciences and the Virginia Seafood Agricultural Research and Extension Center. By developing strategic partnerships with both industry and academia, the goal of the Innovation Center is to conduct research and educational programming to develop, promote and advance the CEA sector in the U.S. and internationally.  More information –  www.ialr.org/cea

Skytree Introduces Latest Direct Air Capture Unit for CEA At Indoor Ag-Con 2024

Amsterdam and Indoor Ag-Con, Las Vegas, NV – March 11, 2024Skytree, a pioneering climate tech company specializing in carbon utilization and removal solutions, today announced the availability of Skytree Stratus, the company’s newest decentralized Direct Air Capture (DAC) unit for onsite carbon capture and utilization. The Skytree Stratus unit can generate as much as 2750 lbs. (1250kg) of COper day to meet the needs of large greenhouses and vertical farms.

Stratus is Skytree’s second decentralized DAC unit brought to market in the last seven months, following the launch of the smaller scale Skytree Cumulus launched last fall. Cumulus units are currently generating CO2 at CEA facilities around the world including Wageningen University & Research Center in The Netherlands.

Once installed onsite, Stratus captures CO2 from the ambient air to be deployed to enrich crop yield and increase productivity. The fully modular nature of Stratus allows for multiple units to be combined into a “Skytree Stratus Hub” to meet larger volume needs. Through partnerships, Skytree offers local liquefaction of CO2, required for storage of liquid CO2, enabling CEA businesses to continuously capture and store CO2 in use during peak production periods.

Stratus is available in hybrid and all-electric-powered configurations, designed to optimally integrate with the location’s onsite energy source. The dual-powered Skytree Stratus Hybrid uses onsite thermal heat which reduces the need for electricity, delivering considerable savings as compared to the all-electric version. Over time, Skytree expects to drive Stratus’ energy consumption to under 1kWh per kg of COgenerated.

“Following the successful commercial launch of the Skytree Cumulus, we are excited to debut our much larger Stratus system with shipments starting later this year,” said Rob van Straten, Skytree CEO. “The introduction of Stratus reflects our great momentum and the strides we continue to make in providing CEA businesses with an innovative alternative to fossil fuel-based CO2. CEA businesses facing or expecting supply chain challenges and price instability want an independent and continuous supply of CO2,” van Straten continued. “Stratus offers a reliable CO2 source for businesses seeking to boost crop yield while, at the same time, securing supply, and reducing carbon footprint.”

Through the company’s Uptime Assurance Guarantee program, Skytree guarantees high uptime, monitors, and measures CO2 generation, and conducts all preventive and corrective maintenance to ensure uninterrupted operations.

For more information about Skytree Stratus, click here:

About Skytree:

Founded in 2014 and headquartered in Amsterdam, Skytree harnesses CO2 from ambient air through the power of direct air capture technology (DAC). By providing local, onsite CO2 generation across multiple markets including vertical farming, greenhouses as well as mineralization, Skytree enables a transition away from fossil fuel-based industrial processes and avoids transport to where the CO2 is needed.

Born out of the European Space Agency (ESA), during the development of a CO2 scrubber, space scientists evaluated over 50 sorbents. Skytree founder, Max Beaumont, was a system engineer on this team and spun out the technology through the ESA incubator program ‘ESA-BIC’. With a decade of research & development, the company has since registered 17 patents, in 5 patent families across US, Europe, and China and is ready to monetize the technology through multiple use cases.

The Skytree Stratus initially is focused on high tech greenhouses that require large volumes of CO2 with initial customers in The Netherlands, Canada and United States.

Ageye Acquires Hyve

AGEYE Announces Aquisition of HYVE Brand At Indoor Ag-Con

AGEYE will Assume Sales, Installation, and Support of HYVE Systems Moving Forward

(Raleigh, North Carolina – March 11, 2024) AGEYE, a forefront innovator in AI-powered crop intelligence for controlled environment agriculture (CEA), proudly announces its strategic acquisition of the HYVE® brand from DASCOM Americas. The company will also assume leadership roles for sales, installation, and support of HYVE systems moving forward. This pivotal move, an extension of the partnership that started in 2022, merges AGEYE’s leading AI technology with HYVE’s scalable, automated vertical farming system, and provides a clear and focused team and direction that will bring undistracted attention in providing the best, most comprehensive system for commercial farming operations.

Nick Genty, CEO of AGEYE, highlighted the industry’s challenges: “Vertical farmers often struggle with piecing together disparate solutions from various providers, leading to inconsistent results. Some have attempted to develop their own technologies, usually facing limited success and budget overruns. We’ve taken a fundamentally unique approach, combining task-specific yet straightforward technologies to provide a comprehensive, superior alternative that has already demonstrated success in the market.”

Central to this innovative solution is the automation of the entire plant lifecycle, from seeding to harvest. Efficient and practical robotics technology significantly reduces human errors, improves plant health, and lowers labor costs, all without the substantial financial investment typically required by advanced technologies. Enhanced by AGEYE’s sophisticated analytics and crop monitoring, this automation supports informed, data-driven decisions across all farming operations – from irrigation and nutrition to lighting, climate control, and harvesting, setting a new standard for the industry. The comprehensive solution is designed to address the real-world challenges faced by vertical farmers, aiding in lowering operational expenses and growing cost-competitive crops.

“The acquisition of the HYVE brand and day-to-day leadership underscores our commitment to advancing indoor agriculture through technology,” said Bashir Jabbour, Senior Director of Product at AGEYE. “Our turnkey solution, where every component is precisely designed to work together, simplifies the journey to success for growers in a competetive landscape. This cohesive approach allows growers to focus on their primary skill: growing. It spares them the complexity of managing multiple vendors and accelerates the operational setup.”

According to Ron Acorn, President of DASCOM Americas: “AGEYE and HYVE have worked together in a strategic capacity over the course of the last several years. Nick is a seasoned leader, full of energy, and very focused with a

team that is well positioned to take HYVE to a new level. This deal comes at a very opportune time for both companies. AGEYE is geographically and strategically well-positioned to maximize the capabilities of a more full- scale integration of the specific abilities of both companies. The combination of the system infrastructure we have cultivated to this point combined with their superior technology leadership means that there is now one source with a fully focused vision to give commercial growers the most viable and comprehensive pathway to success in their indoor farming pursuits. It is both strategic and practical for AGEYE to assume a more prominent role in bringing this comprehensive solution to market. AGEYE’s leadership, technical expertise, and depth of experience add the final missing piece to an unmatched recipe for prospective indoor farmers who will without doubt change the landscape of commercial farming moving forward.”

This move marks a significant step in AGEYE’s effort to transform vertical farming into a well-known, dependable, and financially viable way to grow crops all year, moving it from a niche method to a widely accepted, sustainable form of agriculture. The goal is to make advanced crop intelligence and automation technology accessible to indoor farmers of all sizes, enhancing their productivity and ensuring sustainable and continuing operations.

For More Information:

To learn more about our solutions and technologies, please visit our websites: AGEYE Technologies: https://ageyetech.com

Grow HYVE: https://growhyve.com

Follow us on social media for the latest updates and insights: Instagram: @ageyetech

LinkedIn: AGEYE Technologies and HYVE Indoor Farming

About AGEYE:

AGEYE specializes in advanced farm management software, IoT devices, AI-driven crop analytics, and fully automated robotic solutions for vertical farming. Our focus is on enhancing revenue per square foot using data- driven precision agriculture. We’re dedicated to making indoor farming viable and profitable by embracing sustainability and leveraging intelligence to simplify complexities. Our technology empowers indoor growers to transform challenges into opportunities, setting new standards for the future of controlled environment agriculture.

 

About HYVE:

HYVE is a business unit of DASCOM Americas which serves the Americas markets and is wholly owned by DASCOM Holdings, a Hong Kong-based company with more than 30 years of experience in providing technology solutions. The company does business in more than eighty countries around the globe and offers diverse solutions for customers in a broad range of markets.

Sollum Donation At Indoor Ag-Con 2024

Sollum Technologies Lights Up Indoor Ag-Con With Charitable Innovation, Pledging Support To Three Square Food Bank

Three Square Nevada Receives Check At Indoor Ag-Con 2024In a groundbreaking debut at Indoor Ag-Con, Sollum Technologies, the leader in dynamic LED grow light solution, announces its commitment to go beyond revolutionizing indoor agriculture to make a significant impact on the local community by partnering with Three Square, Southern Nevada’s only food bank.

For each demo of its innovative SUN as a Service® platform performed during the event, Sollum® pledged to donate $ 100 USD directly to Three Square. On the second day of the show, Sollum donated $ 3,000 USD, which will contribute to serving approximately 9,000 meals.

Sollum Technologies designed the only 100% dynamic LED lighting solution that modulates the full spectrum of the Sun’s natural light to illuminate closed environments such as greenhouses, research centers and laboratories. Sollum’s award-winning, turnkey solution consists of internet of things, AI-powered light fixtures that are controlled by Sollum’s proprietary SUN as a Service® cloud platform.

Sollum’s distinctive proposition is a fully scalable cleantech solution that evolves with business needs and multi-zone light management, with each zone benefiting from automatic dimming of an unlimited number of light recipes; this is why it provides unparalleled value in terms of energy savings and, additionally for greenhouse growers, increased productivity and superior produce quality.

ABOUT SOLLUM
Founded in 2015, the company is headquartered in Montréal (Québec, Canada), where its design, development, and manufacturing activities are concentrated, and has a representative office in Leamington (Ontario, Canada). For more information, visit sollum.tech.

Babylon Microfarms STEM Garden at Indoor Ag-Con

Babylon Introduces The STEM Garden At Indoor Ag-Con 2024

(Richmond, VA) Babylon Micro-Farms, Inc., North America’s leading manufacturer of on-site, modular vertical farms, officially launched its latest Micro-Farm, the STEM Garden, designed for the education market. The team showcased the new design at Indoor Ag-Con, March 11-12, 2024.  The company is taking pre-orders and will begin shipping units in June 2024.

Their latest Micro-Farming system is designed to engage the senses and expand the mind by delivering an accessible and affordable interactive farming experience to the education market. After delivering Micro-Farms to hundreds of locations worldwide, Babylon has collected feedback from a wide range of educators to inform the design for the STEM Garden. Their engineering team has carefully designed the product to deliver the highest-quality farming experience available to educators at an accessible price point. STEM Garden is simple, reliable, and configurable, making it a workhorse for teaching various science, technology, nutrition, and mathematics topics.

Alexander Olesen (CEO & Co-Founder) said, “The STEM Garden represents the next step in our journey to make hydroponic agriculture accessible to all. We have set the standard for safe, reliable, remotely managed vertical farms manufactured here in the USA, enabling anyone to become an indoor farmer. The STEM Garden is an accessible device that significantly expands the market for on-site vertical farms in the classroom and, eventually, home.”

After researching the education space over the last few years, Babylon has created a versatile growing system to engage, educate, and inspire students by bringing farm-to-table into the classroom. Here are some of the key features:

Hands-on Learning – Removable trays in workstations promote hands-on learning for crop planting, nurturing, and harvesting.

Classroom-Compatible – Our design fits K-12 classrooms, maximizing space without compromising on the quality of education.

Student Led-Experiments – Designed for simplicity, our unit encourages students to work together, promoting teamwork and collaboration skills.

Exciting Seed Varieties – Students can explore the world of plant biology in depth, including different leafy greens, herbs, flowers, and microgreens.

Educational Integration – Get lesson plans and materials for hands-on gardening integrated into your curriculum.

Food Safe Cultivation – Our enclosed and locked gardening system ensures ideal plant growth with minimal effort and a more efficient and secure learning environment.

A dietician with Aramark at VCU, Julia Danisewicz RD, said, “We love our Babylon Micro-Farm; our students love the knowledge that their food was grown just a few feet away. As a dietician, seeing a university like VCU value sustainable, pesticide-free food choices for its students is exciting. I didn’t have a green thumb before working with the farm, but it is so easy to use that now I feel like a pro.”

The STEM Garden is available for pre-order today.  Access the info sheet, spec sheet and please sign up for the waitlist here. 

About Babylon
Founded in 2017, Babylon provides an indoor farming service to enable businesses and communities to have a year-round supply of ultra-fresh produce at the touch of a button. They manufacture all their products in the United States. The BabylonIQ software platform remotely manages the modular vertical farming systems network to make sustainable agriculture accessible to institutional food service clients like Compass, Aramark, and Sodexo. The service includes semi-automated vertical farms, software, and supplies wrapped into a flat monthly fee.

Link to TED Talk: Watch my TEDx Talk on “The Next Generation of Vertical Farming

Link to Times Magazine: Top Greentech Companies 2024

Adam Bergman Keynote at Indoor Ag-Con 2024

Indoor Ag Revolution: Citi’s Adam Bergman Shares Strategies For Growth, Sustainability

In this Q&A following his keynote address at last week’s Indoor Ag-Con 2024, “Indoor Farming – The Next Revolution In Agriculture,” Adam Bergman, Global Head of AgTech Investment Banking for Citi, sheds light on the promising trajectory of indoor farming despite the challenges encountered in 2023. He discusses the pivotal role of technology, financial strategies, crop diversification, funding opportunities, and strategic partnerships in propelling the indoor farming sector towards a sustainable and prosperous future.

Q: In your keynote, you talked about the promising future of indoor farming despite setbacks in 2023.  Can you elaborate on specific strategies and/or innovations that you believe will drive the rapid growth of indoor farming, especially in the context of the mega trends of food security, sustainability, and health & nutrition?

A: Food security, sustainable food systems, and health & nutrition are the biggest drivers of indoor farming. Food security initially spurred on indoor farming because of the supply chain disruptions caused by the Covid pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. As a result,  the trend toward food globalization that started following World War II has gone into reverse. In the past few years, a growing number of countries, especially those in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) that generated a huge amount of money during a period of high energy costs, speak more about food self-sufficiency and the role of indoor farming. Indoor farming is attractive to the GCC, because they do not have enough arable land and/or an optimal climate to grow outdoors.

As climate change persists, conditions are getting harsher for outdoor farmers, who are forced to deal with increasing weather volatility. Additionally, the global population is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050, which will necessitate roughly a 50% increase in the amount of food produced. Farmers, working with governments and NGOs around the globe, are going to need to figure out how to grow more with similar or fewer resources (chemical fertilizers, crop chemicals & pesticides, land, and water). Since indoor farms typically don’t use chemical fertilizers, crop chemicals or pesticides, and use significantly less land and water, they are a better solution for more environmentally sustainable agriculture.

The consumer also plays a key role in the food system. Previously, consumers were frequently beholden to CPG companies and retailers to purchase food. However, there have been significant changes in how consumers, particularly in the developed world, purchase food (direct-to-consumer, online purchases, food delivery, and meal kits), which is disintermediating many incumbents. Gen Z and Millennials especially are pushing back against industrial agriculture, which has played a large part in the ecological harm to soil and contamination of ground water, lakes, rivers, streams, and oceans, as well as damaging human health, as obesity rates have soared globally. Today, more consumers are demanding fresher, healthier and more nutritious foods that is grown sustainably. Indoor farms can be built on sites close to population centers, one advantage of which is having a much shorter supply chain.  Consumers can buy produce that lasts longer before spoiling and indoor farmers can grow products for taste, texture, and nutrient density rather than yield and logistics, which are priority for outdoor farmers shipping across North America or around the globe. In total, these three mega trends of food security, sustainable food systems and health & nutrition are poised to have a significant impact in accelerating on the growth of indoor farming globally.

Q:  Your extensive experience in Clean Energy Transition and AgTech investment banking positions you at the intersection of technology innovation and climate change.  How do you envision technology advancements influencing the future of indoor farming, and what role can financial institutions play in supporting these technological innovations for sustainable growth? 

A: Innovations in the greenhouse sector have accelerated over the past 150 years, with automation & robotics, building materials, digitization, more efficient water usage and improved energy efficiency all driving progress recently. The vertical farming sector is poised for similar transformational changes as LED light technology advances, and seed genetics are optimized to grow plants under various light spectrums. Once more indoor farms get to a point where key risks have been mitigated (financial performance, including positive EBITDA, multiple farms operating at full capacity, project developers with a strong track-record, and customer off-take agreements), financial institutions can play a significant role in financing new indoor farms, similar to the role they played in the growth of solar and wind projects. Once bankruptcy risks for indoor farming companies and projects are substantially reduced, opportunities will open up for project finance with 70+% debt to develop indoor farming and cheaper capital from insurance companies and pension funds looking for strong, long-term cash-flowing entities.

Q: In your presentation, you touched on the expansion of crop production into areas like  higher-margin produce, pharmaceuticals and specialty ingredients.  Could you provide insights into strategic considerations for indoor farmers looking to diversify their crop portfolios, and what opportunities you foresee in these emerging markets?

One of the challenges many vertical farming companies face is high production costs. This is mainly due to limited production capacity and high capital expense and operation costs currently. As vertical farms continue to struggle to be cost competitive with outdoor grown produce and many greenhouses, it is extremely important to diversify away from leafy greens to grow other products that command higher prices. This is similar to the biofuels sector two decades ago, when various companies decided to compete against the commoditized fuel sector rather than specialty chemicals, which could be sold at a much higher price point. Those companies that tried to compete against commoditized fuels frequently went bankrupt as they were capital intensive and did not have the requisite scale or cost structure to be economic.  Only those companies that focused on specialty chemicals were able to achieve a cost structure that made economic sense and, as they expanded and optimized production, were able to reduce costs and become cost competitive with more commoditized end-markets.  Based on the trends I have seen, I believe the same thing will occur with vertical farms, which should look to provide a variety of products that can be sold at higher prices (berries, coffee, forestry, pharmaceuticals, specialty ingredients), and ultimately to achieve economies of scale and drive costs down.

Q: In the context of securing funding for sustainable growth in the indoor farming sector, you mentioned leveraging the USDA loan program and other non-dilutive sources of capital.  Can you offer practical advice for businesses in the CEA industry on accessing these funding opportunities and navigating the financial landscape successfully?

The equity capital markets remain extremely challenging for most early- and growth-stage companies, with the traditional debt markets available for only a few of the largest, most profitable indoor farming companies. In challenging capital markets, it is more important that companies look for creative non-dilutive sources of capital. The two areas that show the most promise are government grants and government-backed loans. To this end, several companies have been able to secure state and local incentives to build new indoor farms in various locations throughout the US. Additionally, a growing number of indoor farming companies have accessed USDA loan guarantees. The advantage of loans associated with the USDA is they typically come at lower interest rates and frequently have lower covenants. Capital will remain one of the biggest obstacles for expanding indoor farming operations throughout North America and the rest of the world.

Q:  Strategic partnerships play a key role in the success  of companies in the indoor farming sector.  From your perspective, how can companies best approach and establish meaningful collaborations with partners like crop input providers, suppliers, retailers and others  to drive innovation and overcome challenges?

A: Like many highly capital-intensive growth sectors, indoor farming faces challenges in validating their business as a prerequisite to accessing capital, both equity and debt. In particularly difficult capital markets, strategic partners provide a means of validation for investors. It is also equally important to establish relationships with key customers, both food service and retailers. Finally, to be an attractive to potential investors, indoor farming companies need to be able to answer the following questions posed by investors:

1) What is your proof that you can build an indoor farm and scale production?

2) Are there consumers who want to buy your products?

3) Will consumers buy your products at a price where you can generate positive gross profit and EBITDA margins?

Those companies with positive answers will find an increasing amount of capital availability for growth, whereas those that struggle, particularly to generate positive financial metrics, will find sources of capital limited.

Center of Excellence For Indoor Agriculture and Microclimates

The Center of Excellence for Indoor Agriculture Announces Partnership With Microclimates, Inc.

The Center of Excellence for Indoor Agriculture, a U.S. based company that supports the growth of the vertical farming and greenhouse industry, announced a partnership with Microclimates, a software development company that provides farms with a platform that offers monitoring, control, data analytics and automation to growers.

The new partnership is designed to assist growers from start-up to farm-build to continued operations. The Center brings its business planning, financial analysis, venture strategy and farm operations assessment expertise to the partnership. Microclimates brings its expertise in platform development and software solutions for lighting, climate, fertigation, irrigation, layered mapping and energy management to the partnership. Together they offer clients a robust set of solutions for indoor farm development and growth.

Eric W. Stein, Ph.D., founder and Executive Director of the Center of Excellence notes, “We are delighted to work with Neda Vaseghi and Loren West at Microclimates. They have built a robust and easy-to-use software platform that helps indoor growers to succeed. One of the challenges for growers is to operate a farm in an efficient and sustainable way in order to achieve profitability. Their solution provides a high level of monitoring, control, and automation at an affordable price point.”

Neda Vaseghi, CEO and co-founder of Microclimates says, “We are thrilled to be partnering with the Center of Excellence and Dr. Eric Stein. His unparalleled expertise in indoor agriculture, technology innovation, and sustainable practices perfectly complements our mission to revolutionize CEA. With Dr. Stein’s visionary leadership and our commitment to cutting-edge environmental automation, supported by integration of silos and hardware- agnostic approach, we are poised to unlock new possibilities and drive transformative impact in the agriculture industry. Together, we look forward to shaping a more efficient, sustainable, and resilient future for growers.”

About The Center: The Center of Excellence for Indoor Agriculture provides business expertise and analytical advisory services to investors, entrepreneurs, industry partners, and community organizers to de-risk the process of building sustainable and profitable indoor vertical farms and greenhouses. Services include strategy, due diligence, economic and technical feasibility analysis, market research and analysis, operations assessment, sustainable methods, training and development. The Center and its partners offer indoor farm design solutions based on sustainable architectural design and optimal operations management principles. As the first U.S.-based Center of Excellence dedicated to indoor farming, it promotes best practices, benchmarking, best in class solutions and research. The Center is located in the Philadelphia metro region.

About Microclimates, Inc. Microclimates is a software company that offers a platform for monitoring, control, automation, and data analytics for various aspects of controlled environment agriculture (CEA), including lighting, climate (HVAC), watering, nutrient dosing, energy monitoring, and maps. Its solution aims to address the current scenario where most CEA systems operate independently, functioning as isolated entities. The Microclimates platform seamlessly unifies monitoring & control systems, while providing a hardware- agnostic model. This integration provides users with a centralized software interface, simplifying management by reducing the number of controllers to oversee. Additionally, it brings about cost savings through labor reduction, mitigates risks associated with the use of multiple control systems, harmonizes data across various components, and facilitates informed, data-driven decision-making for operators.

Innovating for Tomorrow: Good Natured Highlights Sustainable Packaging Trend

 

good natured Products Inc. (Indoor Ag-Con 2024 Booth #1323) has been making bio-based packaging since 2006 and has witnessed transformative changes in packaging expectations, driven by a deepening commitment to sustainability and a keen response to regulatory and consumer demands. The landscape is changing fast, and companies are trying to make sense of what’s best for their business and the environment. Sometimes, this complexity leads to confusion, and when people are confused, they might hesitate to act. Part of the company’s approach is to provide simplified, actionable insights to make it as easy as possible to make the switch to sustainable packaging.

Key trends to Watch:

  1. Brand Loyalty through Sustainability: Businesses are seeing sustainable packaging as more than an environmental choice—it’s a brand builder. With a significant majority of consumers favoring eco-conscious packaging, adopting recyclable, compostable, and reusable options is becoming a strategic priority for companies that want to stay ahead.
  2. Clarity is King: Transparent packaging isn’t just aesthetically pleasing; it’s a trust builder, offering consumers a clear view of the product, assuring them of its freshness and quality—a critical decision factor in today’s market.
  3. Navigating Regulatory Shifts: The dynamic regulatory environment demands agility and foresight. Collaborating with packaging experts can help businesses stay compliant and help avoid the pitfalls of investing in a packaging platform that may be at risk of regulation in the coming years.
  4. Focus on Freshness and Safety: A combination of materials, closures and design choices can have an impact on enhancing product longevity and safety, both of which are crucial in minimizing waste and boosting consumer confidence.
  5. Material Simplification: Optimizing materials for better recycling and composting is becoming a key topic to reducing environmental impact and promoting a circular economy in packaging. Although the EU has been moving faster on this front, similar approaches are expected to come to North America in the coming years.

As the agri-food sector evolves, so does its approach to sustainability, extending beyond packaging to encompass all aspects of operation, from water conservation to energy efficiency. Indoor Ag-Con provides a platform to explore these innovations, underscoring the industry’s commitment to sustainable practices.

We’re eager to engage with the forward-thinking community at Indoor Ag-Con, sharing insights and exploring sustainable packaging solutions that align with broader environmental goals,” remarks Paul Antoniadis, CEO of good natured®. “Sustainability is a journey, and every step, no matter how small, is part of our collective path toward environmental change, and from our experience your customers will reward your efforts.”

Visit good natured Products Inc. at Indoor Ag-Con to delve into these trends and discover how integrating sustainable packaging into your business can create value and a positive environmental impact.

Trend Report Part Two – Indoor Ag-Con 2024

Climate Control, Smart Irrigation, Healthy Super Food

(Photos L-R from Hoogendoorn, FabricAir, NGS, Pure Life Carbon and Dramm)

Indoor Ag-Con returns March 11-12 to Caesars Forum Las Vegas offering attendees an insider look into the driving forces behind the ever-evolving vertical farming | greenhouse | controlled environment agriculture industry. Boasting an expanded Expo Hall with 200+ exhibiting companies showcasing the most cutting-edge products, services and tools on the market, Indoor Ag-Con will offer an immersive experience to farmers, growers, ag tech leaders, suppliers, advocates and enthusiasts.

As a follow-up to Indoor Ag-Con Trend Report One issued earlier this year, below are some of the latest trends shaping the indoor agriculture industry today and a selection of product highlights from Indoor Ag-Con 2024 exhibitors.

Climate Control

In recent years, climate control has emerged as a pivotal trend in indoor agriculture, revolutionizing the way crops are grown in controlled environments. With a heightened focus on sustainability and food security, growers are increasingly turning to sophisticated climate control systems to optimize growing conditions regardless of external weather patterns. These systems integrate advanced technologies such as sensors, automated ventilation, and LED lighting, to create tailored environments that mimic ideal growing conditions. By fine-tuning factors like temperature, humidity, CO2 levels, and light intensity, indoor farmers can achieve higher yields, faster growth cycles, and superior crop quality while conserving resources and minimizing environmental impact.

Groupe Eode, (Booth 1306) in partnership with ECU Plus, ATC, and GPS, offers a comprehensive precision climate solution, assisting growers in increasing yields while minimizing risks and energy costs. The ECU plus is a new product line offering a HVAC system capable of delivering the most precise temperature and humidity control in the industry, with exceptional energy efficiency. GPS is a new product line reducing and controlling mildew and pathogen by generating ions in the space. Cost effective and without any maintenance or replacement parts.

Hoogendoorn Growth Management’s (Booth 600) flagship product, IIVO, is a revolutionary climate computer equipped with Intelligent Algorithms, streamlining greenhouse management. IIVO not only simplifies climate optimization but also stands out with proactive Intelligent Algorithms that continuously fine-tune climate control based on forecasted weather conditions, ensuring peak efficiency in greenhouse operations.

Microclimates (Booth 701) is an innovative technology firm specializing in environmental automation tailored for the controlled agricultural sector. In an era where automation systems often operate independently, lacking seamless communication, Microclimates introduces a groundbreaking solution. Unlike traditional siloed approaches, the platform transcends hardware dependencies, providing a unified ecosystem. Through the platform, disparate systems—ranging from climate control and lighting to irrigation and fertigation—are seamlessly integrated onto a single user-friendly interface, facilitating harmonized data management and optimal operational efficiency. Microclimates partnered with Veea Inc. to launch  LoRaWAN (Long Range Wide Area Network) as the wireless solution for sensing and controlling and its low price point allows for easy deployment in any facility.

DryGair (Booth 207) develops and manufactures a patented dehumidification solution for commercial-scale horticulture, including greenhouses, nurseries, indoor grow rooms, drying rooms, and more. DG dehumidifiers combine powerful and efficient dehumidification with a unique air circulation mechanism to ensure uniform, optimal conditions in the grow space.

DesertAire (Booth 1305) offers highly efficient, purpose built integrated HVACD equipment specifically designed for indoor agriculture. Desert Aire’s GrowAire™ GreenAire™ and DriCure™ HVACD solutions provide integrated HVAC control of temperature and humidity in order to provide stable VFD to enhance and protect crops. The new Chilled Water Integrated HVACD System for CEA will be shown at Indoor Ag-Con.

FabricAir (Booth 702) provides complete air solutions for indoor farming and vertical grow operations. Their fabric-based air delivery systems are custom engineered to prevent microclimates, facilitate uniform temperature and humidity within the grow space, and allows plants to flourish through every stage of the grow cycle. FabricAir ducts are lightweight, hygienic, washable, and they don’t condensate which eliminates corrosion issues. The Rack Flow system offers custom designed airflow solutions for multi-tiered grow spaces.

A new partnership between Wageningen University & Research and Skytree (Booth 903), focuses on the use of direct air capture (DAC) technology in the Dutch horticulture industry. The project aims to explore how DAC-generated CO2 can affect plant growth, the energy efficiency of producing CO2, and the optimal integration of DAC into existing greenhouses.

  • Quality: The project investigates the impact of DAC-generated CO2 on plant growth, which is crucial for greenhouse quality improvements.
  • Energy: It measures the energy required to produce 1kg of CO2, a key factor in the sustainability of greenhouse operations.
  • Integration: The research focuses on optimizing DAC integration, which is essential for modernizing greenhouse infrastructure.

MJTech (Booth 320) is a leader in providing high-pressure fog systems, from breeding to propagation and/or cultivation. To manage humidity, to have adiabatic cooling (lower temperatures) all in the most flexible way with your overall climate computer steering.

Smart Irrigation

Irrigation in indoor agriculture has undergone a notable transformation, driven by advancements in technology and a growing emphasis on sustainability and efficiency. Traditional irrigation methods, such as flood and drain systems or hand-watering, are being replaced by more precise and automated techniques. Hydroponic and aeroponic systems, utilizing nutrient-rich solutions or misting mechanisms, have gained popularity due to their ability to deliver water directly to plant roots while minimizing waste. Moreover, the integration of sensors, data analytics, and smart controls enables growers to monitor and adjust irrigation schedules in real-time, optimizing water usage and crop health. This shift towards precision irrigation not only conserves water, but also enhances crop yields and quality in indoor farming environments.

Dramm (Booth 613) is pleased to announce their partnership with CE-Line to provide in-line nutrient testing to irrigation water in North America. CE-Line is a unique, laboratory quality, nutrient analysis system that automatically samples water throughout the day. This in-line testing solution provides accurate data within an hour, eliminating the wait for test results from a remote laboratory. Sample results are securely stored in the cloud with APIs available to connect to your climate control and fertigation systems. This connectivity allows for automated optimization of nutrient levels in real-time.”

In the Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) sector, Siemens’ (Booth 1400 and 1501) advanced controls systems, innovative infrastructure, and building automation systems empower growers to optimize crop growth, conserve resources, and increase yields—all while harnessing the power of automation and data-driven insights—leaving customers more sustainable, from the field to the table.

FGM USA (Booth 321) offers automated NFT growing systems including all irrigation and water treatment systems, as well as a propagation/vertical grow system manufactured by FGM. FGM a Danish and USA Company is a leading designer and mfg. of horticulture equipment since 1979.

HANS® (Booth 1522) has reinvented every component used to treat water – from the redundant pump to reverse osmosis elements into intelligent, efficient, space-saving devices. They are designed to work together in modular, scalable systems to meet every need. So even if your customers have brackish water, or need de-ionized water, or use a million gallons per day, HANS components can be assembled to get the job done – quickly, easily and effectively.

Super Food

Indoor agriculture presents a promising avenue for exploring alternate food sources, particularly in the realm of sustainable and innovative farming practices. Vertical farms, hydroponics, and aquaponics systems are just a few examples revolutionizing how we grow food. These methods not only maximize space but also offer opportunities to cultivate unconventional crops like microgreens, edible flowers, and specialty herbs. As indoor agriculture continues to evolve, it provides a fertile ground for experimenting with diverse food sources, offering resilience against climate change and bolstering food security for future generations.

Pure Life Carbon (Booth 1222) is a private Canadian clean AgTech firm that has developed the first re-usable, carbon sequestering, soilless growing medium for the controlled environment agriculture market. The products utilize Advanced Carbon technology to solve problems for growers that were unsolvable in the past. Pure Life Carbon is among a high-performing group of global innovators and visionaries working to feed the populations of tomorrow while healing the environment. Pure Life Carbon has developed the first re-usable, carbon sequestering, soilless growing medium for the controlled environment agriculture market.

Klassman-Dielmann’s (Booth 812) focus will be on the presentation of a genuine innovation for modern horticulture: Nygaia. Nygaia is a new and groundbreaking substrate fiber based on biopolymer technology that is biodegradable and is particularly suitable for use in hydroponic systems.  Under the theme “The magic of innovation,” the completely newly developed, innovative substrate solution will be brought to life with plant examples grown in Nygaia, test kits distributed to interested guests at the Klassman-Dielmann booth or with the appearance of magician Rob Anderson during the Indoor Ag-Con Expo Floor Day One Cocktail reception!

Royal Gold (Booth 505) is the Original Coco soils company, pioneering Coconut based soils and growing mediums for nearly 2 decades. They are leaders in quality and consistency in the marketplace and focus on industry leading customer support for both hobby and commercial cultivation of all crops. Featuring a variety of soils and soilless mediums and offering OMRI/CDFA organic fertilizers and amendments, Royal Gold is the gold standard in gardening. They will be displaying the new All-purpose fertilizer and new 70/30 Coco-Perlite Blend as well as sharing information on its forthcoming Planting Mix and Potting and Propagation Mix.

BIO520 (Booth 1212) is an all-natural essential liquid mineral nutrient for optimal plant cultivation. Derived from a combination of ancient volcanic magma and sea sediments, and free of any harmful chemicals, BIO520 contains an abundance of vital minerals to help plants thrive. BIO520 is beneficial for all plants and crops, indoor or outdoor. Developed from Mother Nature for Mother Nature.

NGS (Booth 1023) manufactures hydroponics for Strawberries, Lettuces and Leafy Greens. NGS is an engineering firm which has been developing automated systems to optimize growing production both by reducing labor and by incrementing production. NGS builds greenhouses that grow lettuce in the desert as well as indoor systems for strawberries. NGS is presenting its patented rotational system for strawberries which doubles normal tabletop production. This new system is revolutionizing the way strawberries are being grown while reducing labor and production costs.

Supreme Perlite (Booth 1216) horticultural perlite products are the ideal indoor, CEA, or hydroponic growing media made here in the U.S.A from domestic raw material sources. The products are sterile, 100% natural, non-toxic, lightweight, pH neutral, durable and insulating. Used as a standalone product, expanded perlite offers clear advantages such as excellent capillarity, water-holding capacity, and air-filled porosity. Combined with other media, perlite boosts drainage rates and aeration, holds moisture and nutrients close to roots, and resists compaction as other substrates begin to break down.

 

EPM (Booth 521) stands at the forefront of eco-friendly plant protection, manufacturing natural solutions in the USA. They excited to debut a 3in1 plant wash, ECO Green, an innovative solution that cleans plant leaves, roots, and acts as an effective pest management alternative. Its unique blend of catalytic enzymes and citric acid not only removes dirt and biofilm but also guards against pests.

For more information on the 2024 exhibitors, please visit www.indoor.ag.

ABOUT:

Founded in 2013, Indoor Ag-Con has emerged as the largest trade show and conference for vertical farming | greenhouse |controlled environment agriculture. 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, visit www.indoor.ag

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