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Kasey snyder Netled

So… what do the retailers and food service distributors think about vertical farming now?

At this interesting phase where the vertical farming industry currently stands, Netled took a deep dive into the retailers’ and food service distributors’ minds to find out their perspective and future plans regarding sourcing from vertical farms. The results look promising.   

For Indoor Agriculture, 2022 ended on a down note, providing much fodder for speculation on the well being of our industry. It was unsettling to those of us dedicated to improving the modern agriculture system and provided no clear direction on where to turn. Often market indicators can be found outside the narrow scope of a single business sector. We thought it wise to tune out the chorus of opinions from indoor agtech experts and gain perspective from other members of the fresh produce supply chain.

Netled partnered with Iowa State University CyBiz Lab to perform a deep dive on market interest in vertical farming from U.S. grocery retailers and food service distributors. How did they interpret the consolidation of CEA growers / suppliers in the last several months? What are their expectations for the market in the short term and the long term? What can their insights tell us about the need for indoor agriculture in the coming years?

In January 2023, a team of four student researchers from agriculture, finance and management disciplines at Iowa State completed U.S. market research on the CEA industry for lettuces and herbs. The CyBiz Lab is lead by Program Direct Mr. Alex Andrade with research and analysis work from Mr. John Imerman, Ms. Morgan Hawkins, Mr. James Chism and Mr. Ian Johnson. The research focused on buyers interest in sourcing vertical farm grown produce and the factors of greatest influence on that interest. The research also sought to understand the dynamic between lettuce and herb buyers and growers.

Reasons not to source from vertical farm depend on the region

Survey participants included category buyers, merchandisers, business development managers, and directors of fresh produce from the top ten US food service and retail distribution companies based on annual sales volume as well as the top fifty US grocery retailers based on regional market share. 42% percent of participants identified as having operations in the Mid-Atlantic states, 27% in New England, 27% in the Mid-west or South and 4% in the West.

Majority of the respondents had sourced from vertical farm grower suppliers in 2022.
Majority of the respondents had sourced from vertical farm grower suppliers in 2022.

All participants confirmed they currently source organic lettuce and herbs, however only 57% are currently sourcing lettuces from CEA growers and 43% are currently sourcing herbs from CEA growers. 67% had sourced from vertical farm grower suppliers in the last year while 33% had not looked into this sector at all.

As for reasons why this group had not sourced from vertical farms already, the answer seemed to depend on the region. For those in the southern most states, there was lack of demand for high quality product during the winter months and a disbelief that vertical farms could operate successfully in areas of high heat or humidity. To the north, it seemed that the growers were unable to meet the consistent supply of high quality product required. Others said that they were satisfied with seasonal products from local suppliers and did not yet have demand for local product in the colder months. There was also a group of respondents who were still researching options and had not determine which vertical farm company to partner with yet.

Nearly 70% of the group who had not sourced from vertical farms yet, said it was likely or somewhat likely that they would do it in the future.   
Nearly 70% of the group who had not sourced from vertical farms yet, said it was likely or somewhat likely that they would do it in the future.

It is also interesting to note that of the group who has not sourced from vertical farms yet, only 17% said it was somewhat unlikely that they would ever source from a vertical farm grower. Of those who are currently sourcing from vertical farms, 33% responded that they are extremely likely to expand sourcing from this sector in the future while the remaining 67% said they were somewhat likely. No respondents replied that they were undecided or not likely.

Of those who are currently sourcing from vertical farms, everyone was either somewhat or extremely likely to keep doing it in the future. 
Of those who are currently sourcing from vertical farms, everyone was either somewhat or extremely likely to keep doing it in the future. 

When asked the reasons why these buyers had sourced from vertical farms in the first place, most respondents listed concerns about supply from California, Arizona and Mexico as well as higher costs that they must pass along to their customers.
Consistency and reliability of supply are the key 

Although there are concerns about the consistency and reliability of lettuce and herb supply from vertical farms, there is equal or greater concern about conventional supply for the same reasons. There may not be direct demand from end consumers for vertical farm grown produce yet, but there is hesitation on the part of the retailer and distributor in not offering these alternatives to their customers. It is reasonable to infer that there will be forgiveness in the supply chain as the vertical farm industry improves upon growing techniques and financial planning to ensure the success of their businesses. As one retailer noted, “it is now the responsibility of the grower and the retailers to successfully market vertical farm grown produce and educate the consumer on the benefits”.

At Netled, we interpret that as a sign of great things to come for our industry. We recognize the importance of building strong partnerships with our business customers and focusing efforts on promoting our industry and educating our end consumer. We are also confident in both our proprietary Vera® vertical farm technology and our farm management abilities. The data points we are monitoring at our two commercial scale farms in the Nordics as well as our demo farm in Canada continue to outperform expectations. This is on levels of energy consumption as well as quality of the product. We look forward to discussing our research findings and sharing information on our commercial scale Vera® vertical farm systems at Indoor Ag-Con and The NGA Show later this month. You’ll find Netled at the booth #517 and CEO Niko Kivioja speaking at the panel ‘Hardball: The State of the Vertical Farming Industry’ on Monday at 2:00pm.   

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Kasey Snyder is Sales Operations Manager at Netled, supporting new business development globally. As a native of New Jersey, she has lived in Finland for the last seven years and enjoys exploring international opportunities to expand vertical farming.

Shawn Woods GoodLeaf Farms

Canada’s Largest Commercial Vertical Farm | Q&A With GoodLeaf Farms’ Shawn Woods

GoodLeaf FarmsWhat started in 2011 as a dream to deliver fresh, nutritious produce to Canadians year-round has become reality. As Canada’s first and largest commercial vertical farming operation, GoodLeaf Farms began supplying microgreens and baby greens to retail locations and restaurants throughout Ontario in 2019.

Indoor Ag-Con is excited to kick off our 2022 Indoor Ag-Conversations webinar series on June 1, 2022 at 2:30 pm ET with the idea-packed case study session , “A Dream Becomes Reality” with GoodLeaf Farm Manager Shawn Woods and equipment partners from Signify & Montel.  Ahead of the webinar, we had the chance to catch up with Shawn to learn a little more about how GoodLeaf is delivering on its mission and what’s next for the growing company.

 What are you growing at your Guelph, Ontario operation, and, what differentiates GoodLeaf from other vertical farms in the marketplace

GoodLeaf FarmsWe are currently growing microgreens  — Spicy Mustard Medley, Pea Shoots, Asian Blend, Micro Arugula, Micro Radish, and Micro Broccoli —  and baby greens – Ontario Arugula, Ontario Spring Mix and Ontario Baby Spinach.

In terms of what sets us apart, we are Canada’s largest commercial vertical farm, and the only one with scale to supply the major grocery chains with safe, fresh, and healthy greens. We lead the industry in Food Safety with SQF Level 2 Certification and a positive release program, which  means that we test every harvest for pathogens and only release them once they have been cleared by our internal lab

In addition, our proprietary technology enables us to grow nutrient-dense local food that is environmentally conscious 365 days a year.

From Day One, our focus has been on growing healthy, tasty food that people want to eat. We use our technology to grow food, while others use technology to collect data.


Sustainability is a key part of your mission. Can you share some of GoodLeaf’s sustainable practices and initiatives?

GoodLeaf Farms Sustainable PracticesOur sustainable practices include:

  • Water use in vertical farming is 95 per cent less than traditional farming methods.
  • More food can be grown per acre, maximizing use of space, and limiting land use.
  • Because our farm is indoors in an environment that is almost entirely controlled, there are no pests, bugs, or birds — and thus no pesticides, herbicides or fungicides are used.
  • The water used is cleaned and recirculated, so there are no run-off issues.
  • Peat / Soil is recycled and re-used in landscaping.
  • Favorable carbon footprint compared to traditional farming.
  • By providing a local food source, we are removing thousands of food miles annually; Leafy greens coming from the southwestern United States are trucked across the continent, burning fossil fuels the whole way.


Last year, GoodLeaf announced an aggressive growth and expansion plan to build a national network of vertical farms.   Can you share updates, including progress on the Calgary project?

GoodLeaf FarmsConstruction on our Calgary farm is well under way. We are on schedule to have the 95,000-square-foot farm open and providing fresh leafy greens to grocery stores across Western Canada in first half of next year.

We are continuing to move forward with our plans for a similar facility in the Montreal area but are not able to provide additional information at this time.   


GoodLeaf is working on a number of R&D projects with universities to advance the science & engineering of vertical farming.  Can you tell us about any of the projects currently underway?

We have an MoU with the University of Guelph to build stronger links between theoretical research, the development of technology and processes and practical application in the field.

Some of the best and most innovative agricultural research in Canada happens at the University of Guelph. Building on the vertical farm technology we have already developed and are using; it will be exciting to see where this partnership can take us.

Some of the projects currently under way with the University of Guelph include research into:

  • Enhancing yields, plant science and new product development.
  • Substrates, growing compounds, and microbiology.
  • Human resources and training future experts in the field of vertical farming.


What’s next for GoodLeaf ?

GoodLeaf FarmsWe are constantly innovating and experimenting with new processes and products to bring the best possible leafy greens to Canadian consumers.

Efforts continue to build partnerships with grocery retailers across Canada, and we are aggressively pursuing growth into the restaurant and hospitality sector. Chefs can do wondrous things with our leafy greens, and we are excited to see where this journey will take us.

While Canada is our priority today, we can’t wait to bring our greens to consumers across the globe

What’s more, we are excited about other opportunities for vertical farming to add value — expanding the portfolio beyond leafy greens or growing specialty crops for healthcare


To learn more about GoodLeaf Farms, visit the website at  and check out this video that takes you through a quick tour of GoodLeaf’s seeding and grow rooms, harvesting and packaging:


Indoor Ag-Con, NGA Show May 2021 Co-Location Taps Into Synergies Between Growers & Grocers

Indoor Ag-Con and The NGA Show Co-Location In 2021The NGA Show, the leading trade show and conference for independent grocers, and Indoor Ag-Con, the premier agriculture conference and trade show for the indoor and vertical farming industry, will co-locate in 2021.   The combined event will be held May 16-18, 2021 at Caesars Forum in Las Vegas, NV.   The January 2021  cover story from Supermarket Perimeter  , titled “Redefining Locally Grown Produce With Urban Farming”, shines a spotlight on the synergies and new business opportunities emerging between grocers and indoor growers.   Written by the publication’s managing editor Andy Nelson, the article highlights a number of our industry leaders, including Freight Farms, Gotham Greens and Infarm and starts out:

Supermarket Perimeter January 2021 Cover Story:

Urban farms check a variety of boxes for today’s consumers: locally grown, sustainable, low carbon footprint — not to mention fresh, healthy and tasty.Supermarket Perimeter Highlights Indoor Grower and Grocer synergies

And the COVID pandemic has only made them more attractive, as transportation and logistics created huge headaches for retailers, shippers and everyone in between along the supply chain. Kroger, Whole Foods Market and Safeway are just a few of the big-name US retailers to get on board.

Minneapolis-based North Market installed a Freight Farms hydroponic vertical container farm in the summer of 2020, and the retailer followed that up in December with the decision to power its farm with solar panels connected to its roof.

“Now we have a repurposed shipping container, growing the equivalent of two acres of outdoor growing space, using only five gallons of water a day, entirely powered by solar panels, selling into a grocery store located 50 feet away,” said Ethan Neal, food systems manager for Pillsbury United Communities, the nonprofit organization that funded the farm. “It’s creating some of the highest quality produce available in a neighborhood that was considered one of the largest food deserts in the state of Minnesota.”

Read the full article from Supermarket Perimeter, visit the publication website here.