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Tag: Hydroponic

High Tech Greenhouse Debuts in East Pasco – Local Bounti

From Tri-City Herald, Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Local Bounti Northwest made its official debut in Pasco on Tuesday morning.

Local Bounti Northwest formally dedicated its new lettuce growing greenhouse in Pasco, shown here during construction, with a ribbon cutting ceremony May 7 and visits by executives.
Photo courtesy of Tri-City Herald. Local Bounti Northwest formally dedicated its new lettuce growing greenhouse in Pasco, shown here during construction, with a ribbon cutting ceremony May 7 and visits by executives.

The young ag tech firm celebrated operations at its 242,000-square-foot hydroponic greenhouse with a ribbon cutting, a visit by company executives and an employee appreciation lunch at the site, near East Lewis and “A” streets.

Local Bounti , based in Hamilton, Mont., built a greenhouse to grow lettuce and other leafy greens at 950 S. Elm St.

The warehouse features stackable growing systems to produce spring mix, butter lettuce, romaine crisp, green leaf and other lettuce blends for distribution through a national network of grocery chains.

The three-acre greenhouse was seeded in January and completed its food safety certification process in April. It employs 40 people. Pasco supports distribution to customers in the Pacific Northwest.

CEO Craig Hurlbert issued a statement for the occasion.

“We are proud to officially be able to call Pasco home with the opening of this latest facility, which enhances our rapidly growing distribution footprint across the U.S.,” he said.

Read full story from Tri-City Herald and Yahoo

Indoor Ag Con 2024 Boosts Worldwide Attendance At Largest Event To Date

16% Attendance Increase For Las Vegas March 11-12, 2024 Event That Drew CEA Industry Members from 49 U.S. States, 31 Countries

(MARCH 18, 2024) — Indoor Ag-Con marked its 11th edition with increases in attendee and exhibitor participation for its March 11-12, 2024 run at Caesars Forum Las Vegas. The exhibiting company roster grew by 54% with a sold-out show floor featuring 207 companies in 287 booths vs. 134 companies in 174 booths for 2023. Attendance saw a 16% increase over 2023 with 1584 attendees from 49 states, the District of Columbia and US territories, as well as 31 other countries. Attendees included C-level execs and other decision-makers involved with every sector of controlled environment agriculture — grower/operators, investors, tech providers, start-ups, academia, government, real estate developers, food service retail, suppliers and more.

For the third year, Indoor Ag-Con once again co-located with the National Grocers Association (NGA) Show, attracting 146 attendees from that event to the Indoor Ag-Con expo floor — taking the total attendance number over the 1700 mark.

“Every year our speakers, exhibitors and attendees from across the country and globe look forward to Indoor Ag-Con as it brings together our industry as a community to hold important discussions on timely topics and show off what’s new in indoor agriculture,” said Brian Sullivan, CEO, Indoor Ag-Con. “This year we experienced record exhibitor growth and attracted companies and attendees from 35 countries to our global event. Next year, we are moving to a new location providing more expo and meeting space as we continue to grow with this ever-evolving industry.”

Among the 11th Annual Edition highlights:

indoor ag-con 2025Keynote Sessions
Each year, Indoor Ag-Con features three inspiring Keynotes and this year’s all-star speakers included Paul Sellew, Founder and CEO of Little Leaf Farms. A mid-morning keynote on day one, “Leader Insights: Charting the Future Landscape of Controlled Environment Agriculture”, was  led by industry veterans Moderator, Daniel Malech, Board Chair, SVP CEA Alliance for Plenty, Jim DiMenna, President of Red Sun Farms, Viraj Puri, Co-Founder and CEO of Gotham Greens, and Matt Ryan, CEO of Soli Organic. Adam Bergman, Managing Director, Clean Energy Transition Group, Global Head of AgTech for Citi, delivered the day two morning keynote address.

Indoor Ag-Con 2025Educational Tracks & Expo Floor Theater Panel Discussions
The Conference features two jam-packed days of educational and insightful sessions from 90+ speakers in four tracks including Planning & Operations, Grower, Cultivating Possibilities and NEW this year, the Cannabis track.

Sold Out Expo Floor
In 2024, the Expo Hall grew and expanded boasting 207 world-class companies in 287 Booths that showcased the most cutting-edge technologies, products and services in the indoor agriculture industry from lighting and control systems to substrates, equipment, irrigation systems.

Networking Opportunities
Daily lunches and an afternoon cocktail reception on the expo floor expanded the show’s networking opportunities.

Indoor Ag-Con |Philips VIP Welcome Party
Back by popular demand, Philips Horticulture LED Solutions teamed up once again with Indoor Ag-Con to tee-up the 2024 edition with a VIP Welcome Par-tee on Sunday evening, March 10 at Topgolf Las Vegas.  Indoor Ag-Con conference speakers and other industry VIPs came together for an incredible evening of golf, networking, cocktails, food, music and fun – all compliments of Philips LED Horticultural Lighting.

Looking ahead, Indoor Ag-Con Las Vegas will move to the Westgate Las Vegas for its March 11-12, 2025 edition.  The new location provides additional expo floor and meeting room space to accommodate the event’s steady growth.

For more information, 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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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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Cultivating Change: Vertical Harvest CEO Talks Urban Farming, Local Impact, and Sustainable Futures

Founded in Jackson, Wyoming in 2016, Vertical Harvest stands out as a pioneering force — fusing architectural imagination, sustainable agriculture and a commitment to inclusivity.  Our CEA Q&A with CEO Nona Yehia explores the design principles and sustainability initiatives shaping her company’s growth, its newest projects in Westbrook, ME, and Detroit, MI and the meaningful difference the Vertical Harvest “Grow Well” model is making on the lives of individuals with disabilities.   From redefining “local” in food production to utilizing sustainable practices, Vertical Harvest has emerged not just as a trailblazer in controlled environment agriculture, but as a leader dedicated to feeding communities and fostering a brighter, more inclusive future.

As an accomplished architect, you brought your vision of North America’s first vertical hydroponic greenhouse to life with your flagship farm in Jackson, Wyoming in 2016. Could you share the key design and sustainability principles that guided the development of Vertical Harvest, and how these principles align with the company’s broader mission?

Vertical HarvestOur first farm in Wyoming started with a simple mandate: responsibly grow as much food as possible within our community (which has a four-month growing season and imports 90% of the food we eat) and to create job opportunities for people who live in our community, especially ones who suffer overwhelming unemployment rates, like people with disabilities. Our goal was to pursue both missions simultaneously, year-round via indoor growing, and work within the parameters of a city very scarce on available land and with a seasonable economy/labor pool.

And as an architect I’ve always been driven to try and understand the systems that build communities, how they support people, and conversely how they fail people, so it was amazing to dig into this in my own backyard. And I’ve rooted my career in the notion that the buildings and systems that make up the fabric of our cities, can and should be designed to meet the challenges of the 21st century – and be designed to serve all members of our 21st century society, especially those on the margins. States and cities are also recognizing that we need to do things differently, we need different approaches to climate adaptation as traditional agricultural systems come under greater stress.

Efforts to re-localize food production will be one of these different approaches and is a growing trend. As is indoor agriculture that can provide increased yields using fewer resources and climate proof our food supply against extreme weather.

So that’s how we became vertical farmers, designing and operating large scale indoor urban farms that grow better food and futures. We’ve seen how our farm is a new type of infrastructure that embodies conscious and radical inclusion — amplifying the voices of all to cultivate a new and burgeoning industry.

 

Vertical Harvest is expanding into different locations, such as the Westbrook, Maine farm and the recently announced project in Detroit. Can you share more about these projects and how they align with your mission of “feeding locals first” and supporting local food economies?

Vertical Harvest Maine
Vertical Harvest Westbrook rendering.

We imagine and advocate for a food system where everyone has the right to healthy food. Our goal to “feed locals first” prioritizes 70% of our produce going to customers within 150 miles of our farms — for the record we don’t call 400 miles “local” — and to meet the needs of the communities we’re growing in before we tap into wider distribution networks. To achieve this we look at the entire “community-as-our-customer” – so not just retail but also the small and medium businesses that make up the local culinary community as well as stalwart community institutions like hospitals, school systems, nursing homes and college campuses. On top of that we aim to divert 4 – 5 % of our farm’s total output specifically into low-income, low-access (LILA) channels, like food rescue operations and the charitable pantry system.

Vertical Harvest Detroit rendering
Vertical Harvest Detroit Rendering

Because of this focus on local food going to local folks, our farms are intentionally built within urban areas to both bolster the local food system and address food insecurity in the same communities where we farm. Our goal then becomes to replicate this mission across a national network of local farms. This is true in Westbrook, ME, a city in and of itself within the greater Portland Metro area, where we expect to be a meaningful contributor to the New England Food Vision of growing 30% of food locally by 2030. And it’s definitely true in Detroit, where we’re building in the Milwaukee Junction neighborhood with Bedrock Detroit. We’re very excited about exploring an even deeper level of opportunity there to imagine how we can use our farm to connect with all of the revitalization and infrastructure investment happening in that city (coincidentally, also my hometown and recently voted the #1 city in the world for start-ups).

Your commitment to employing people with disabilities and focusing on their abilities is inspiring. Can you elaborate on the impact this approach has had on the lives of your employees and how it has enhanced your company’s performance and mission?

Nona Yehia and Caroline Croft Estay
Vertical Harvest Co-Founders Nona Yehia and Caroline Croft Estay

Employing people with disabilities is personal. I grew up with a brother with developmental disabilities and from an early age, I observed how society treated him differently, with less opportunities. So when we set out to build the country’s first indoor vertical greenhouse, we wanted to implement a one-of-a-kind workforce model, too. Together, with my co-founder, Caroline Croft Estay – a former case manager in Teton County– we imagined “Grow Well,” a customized employment model fostering professional development, personal discovery and community impact. This person-centered approach aligns professional, personal and community components of the workplace to ensure the development of job skills, growth, accountability and engaged citizenship.

Across the country people with disabilities suffer on average an 80% unemployment rate, but at our farms we start by focusing on ability vs disability. And 40% of our folks are
differently-abled. For some we’re they’re first experience of meaningful and stable employment they’ve been offered. Others, even those with college degrees, often found themselves offered only entry level positions like cleaner or dishwasher.

Vertical Harvest Product and PeopleIn our 7 years of operation we’ve helped employees open bank accounts, sign their first lease, reverse evictions, get their driver’s license, earn back their guardianships and acted as health advocates as employees work to coordinate care across multiple doctors and health systems. These are real outcomes of our Grow Well customized employment program that we’re intensely proud of….

But also, our commitment to our people is an absolute brand differentiator. We like to say people come to the farm because they like our story, but they come back because of the quality of the product. We’re not in this for pity pennies – in fact that would undermine our whole mission to prove that neurodiverse minds, different life experiences and a range of perspectives make for stronger teams. And the fact that we are able to weave a great product and a great purpose together earns us tremendous brand loyalty and love.

Sustainability is a key focus for Vertical Harvest. Can you share some of the sustainable practices and technologies you implement in your operations and how they contribute to reducing environmental impact?

We’re committed to continuous improvement and innovation to enhance our own sustainability and in the indoor ag industry at large. We’re collaborating with the Resource Innovation Institute and the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy to create the first of its kind benchmarking report for the CEA sector. This USDA-grant funded program is collecting 4 years of data to inform the strengths and weaknesses of production methods. Additionally, our Wyoming facility acts as an R&D lab to test strategies for maximizing yield, including crop-specific growing and harvesting techniques like optimal lighting, climate controls, rack density and crop transport automation. Our work in that farm has been recognized by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and the U.S. Department of Energy for our sustainable approach to natural and supplemental lighting. And then all future “next generation” farms are designed to be 100% electric. We like to say as the grid gets greener, so are we. And we’re always trying for more sustainable sourcing from our suppliers and keep a close eye on new technologies that enter the market.

What’s next for Vertical Harvest?

We have a roadmap for expansion – in addition to Maine opening and Detroit breaking ground next year, we hope to be announcing another 1 – 2 farms as well. Every farm will share some core features (like the Grow Well model and a commitment to prioritizing local), but also with a level of customization so each farm can adapt to the specific needs of the community they’re rooted in.

The needs of local ethnic communities and their culinary heritage is a great example, and we’re already trialing certain herbs and aromatics that are being requested in Maine. So, just as the farm in Jackson is a reflection of our western heritage and abundant outdoor adventure scene, the farm in Westbrook, ME will take on its own personality adapting to its place, space and culture. And of course, that goes for Detroit too and all our future farms as well, because we believe hope lies in the local. We know that real community is built through the tables we set, who we make a place for and the love and care and nourishment that gets mixed into every dish. We’re excited to dig in!

 

About Nona Yehia

An accomplished architect by training, and principal of GYDE Architects in Jackson Hole, WY, Nona designed North America’s first vertical hydroponic greenhouse and founded Vertical Harvest Farms. Alongside her co-founder, Caroline Croft-Estay, Nona pioneered an inclusive, customized employment model for people with physical and/or intellectual disabilities. Vertical Harvest grew from Nona’s experiences growing up with a brother with developmental disabilities, love of fresh and local food, obsession with great design, and long-standing community involvement. Nona’s dynamic leadership style has led to recognition as a CNN Champion of Change. She is a Tony Hsieh Award Fellow and a Cities Member on World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council. Vertical Harvest is a 2x finalist for Fast Company’s Best Places to Work for Innovators. Nona graduated from the University of Michigan and earned a Masters degree in architecture from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. She resides in Jackson, WY.

Learn more about Nona and Vertical Harvest —visit the company website.

 

White Paper: Assessment of CEA Workforce Needs and UMKC Student Interest in CEA Education

UMKC White Paper
Click image to download presentation deck from Indoor Ag-Con 2023 Workforce Development panel sharing survey results.

Indoor Ag-Con Academic Ally University of Missouri – Kansas City (UMKC)’s Dr. Juan Cabrera-Garcia, Dr. Angela Cottrell and their team conducted a survey accessing controlled environment agriculture workforce needs and expectations for future educational programming to attract and train student to enter the sector.  Dr. Cottrell shared some of the survey findings during a workforce development panel discussion at Indoor Ag-Con 2023 and she and the team authored a white paper on the findings as well.  We are pleased to share that presentation here along with a corresponding white paper on their findings.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Controlled environment agriculture (CEA) systems integrate technology to optimize crop performance via environmental control. There is an urgent need to train the future workforce to meet the needs of the CEA industry as these systems become more technology driven. Therefore, the goal of this project was to inform the development of CEA curriculum by gauging student interest at the University of Missouri – Kansas City (UMKC) and understanding the knowledge, skills, and degrees desired for different job hierarchies in the CEA industry.

Click image above to download complete whitepaper

A survey was sent to individuals in the CEA industry (academics, growers, and service/technology providers) to determine the knowledge and skills needed for different CEA job positions and the degree that certifies competency for said positions. Another survey was sent to UMKC students to gauge their knowledge of – and interest in – a CEA educational program. Responses from the CEA industry were separated in two groups based on the role of respondents in CEA: roles directly involved in growing crops and support roles (academics and service/technology providers).

There was consensus between both industry groups on the top ranked skills, knowledge, and degree programs for job positions in CEA. The top five positions in demand by the CEA industry are, from highest to lowest ranked: (1) farm manager, (2) farm worker, (3) research & development director, (4) food safety coordinator, and (5) research technicians. The top degrees for the positions listed above are: (a) apprenticeship, (b) two-year associate, (c) graduate,(d) bachelor, and (e) bachelor programs, respectively.

Eighty-nine percent of UMKC students are interested in a lab or greenhouse where they can participate in growing crops. Fifty-three percent of UMKC students are interested, or would consider participating in, an academic minor for Controlled Environment Agriculture. We anticipate that our observations will inform the development of curriculum and degrees that meet the needs of the CEA industry.

Individuals utilizing the results from this project should consider which responses are relevant for their own curricular development needs.

Contact Information

Juan Cabrera-Garcia, PhD

Division of Plant Science & Technology University of Missouri

Columbia, MO 65211 jcabrera-garcia@missouri.edu

Acknowledgements: This project was funded by the USDA HEC Award Number2023-70003-38775. Special thanks to Indoor Ag-Con, Suzanne Pruitt, and Chieri Kubota for their facilitation and support to reach individuals in the CEA industry

Revolutionizing Agriculture: Indoor Vertical Farming With Pipp Horticulture | Planted Detroit Case Study

 

Pipp Horticulture has quickly become an industry-leading Mobile Vertical Growing Solutions provider, with installations in over 2,500 grow rooms worldwide. Pipp’s Mobile Vertical Grow Racks allow cultivators to maximize production capability, reduce operating costs, and increase overall revenue per square foot by maximizing their cubic canopy footprint without increasing the square footprint of the room or building. Pipp takes pride in manufacturing all its products in the USA.

Although Pipp’s entry point into the horticulture industry was through the cannabis market, Pipp Horticulture is not limited to any specific cultivation or plant processing category. 

Instead, the company looks forward to leveraging the knowledge and experience gained through the cannabis industry to develop solutions for all growers. Pipp sees tremendous growth ahead. Rooted in what indoor cultivation will mean to families, cities, and the world. The possibilities are limitless.

Photo courtesy of EE Berger/Planted Detroit
Photo courtesy of EE Berger/Planted Detroit

Over the years, Pipp has strategically acquired several industry leaders in the market to create a well-rounded cultivation solution. These companies include Greenhaus Industries, Vertical Air Solutions,  GGS Structures, and the assets of Grow Glide. Each of these strategic acquisitions aims to provide purpose-built solutions to support all aspects of your grow facility. Through these acquisitions, Pipp has assembled a team of highly experienced cultivators.

Pipp experts work with the company’s engineers and designers to develop innovations built for the indoor vertical farming market. They also support Pipp customers before, during, and after installation. They offer expert advice and help educate the community on best practices for building and operating your indoor vertical farm.  

Planted Detroit Case Study:

Planted Detroit, located in Detroit, Michigan, is a 20,000-square-foot warehouse with two grow rooms equipped with two types of LED lighting, two hydroponic systems, and a single database system for data collection and analysis. Their mission is to actively work to reduce food insecurity in their communities and come together to grow tastier, healthier, and more accessible greens sustainably. 

Photo courtesy of EE Berger/Planted Detroit

Planted Detroit is moving ahead with Pipp Horticulture as its primary provider of racking systems due to its versatility which allowed Planted Detroit to add advanced ebb-and-flow hydroponic technology to the racking system.

Pipp engineers and installation experts worked with Planted Detroit to install mobile vertical grow racking systems that were clean and biosecure. The Pipp team helped implement a controlled environment agriculture (CEA) system to help better serve their community regardless of the season. Planted Detroit wants to ensure they grow only the best greens, monitoring every aspect of their environment.

Photo courtesy of EE Berger/Planted Detroit

After implementing Pipp’s mobile vertical grow racking systems, Planted Detroit can quickly access and tend to all their plants and grow 8x more. They cultivate their fresh greens on Pipp’s mechanical-assist carriages, holding eight tiers of plants while utilizing 3,000 ABS combination grow trays. Pipp then helped further increase the efficiency of Planted Detroit’s growing systems with our ELEVATE® Platform System to help maintain and care for all their plants on each grow level.

All photos courtesy of EE Berger/Planted Detroit

For more information visit Pipp Horticulture

Talking Automation, Sustainability and Scale With Better Future Farms Co-Founder John McMahon

Earlier this month, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin announced that Better Future Farms, Inc. will build a new hydroponic greenhouse and processing facility on a 61-acre site in the  Louisa County Industrial Air Park. Backed by funding from Generate Capital, a sustainable infrastructure investment and operating platform and a distribution partnership with Taylor Farms,  a leading North American producer of salads and healthy fresh foods, the facility is set to come online in 2024.  In this month’s CEA Q&A, John McMahon, co-founder/chief operating officer of Better Future Farms and founder of Schuyler Greens, shared insights on their decision to locate in central Virginia’s Louisa County , their sustainability initiatives and long term goals for the company.

What led to the decision to build the new greenhouse and processing facility in Louisa County?  What factors made this location the best choice for Better Future Farms?

Better Future Farms Indoor Ag-Con Q and AThe decision was driven by both the site and infrastructure. My business partner David Drescher and I both live in the Charlottesville area, and Louisa County is the next county over.  In central Virginia it’s hard to find the flat terrain needed for a greenhouse facility.  This site had that and the right infrastructure in place in terms of electrical capabilities, natural gas, and proximity to large freeways and distribution logistics.

The local support was another key factor.  We looked at several different counties and once we talked to Louisa County about the project and what it entailed, they were incredibly supportive and became great partners throughout the process.

We also wanted to build our first project in our own backyard in Virginia, as we’re from the area and didn’t want to be on a plane every week. Leveraging our existing relationships in the CEA industry in Virginia also played a role. The state is very enthusiastic about the future of CEA and government agencies and organizations like the   Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership were very supportive and helpful.  And, of course, Virginia itself is a great choice since it puts the facility within a day’s drive of a large population base.

What will differentiate Better Future Farms from other greenhouse/indoor operations?

I’ve been a grower for about 10 years now, so I tend to be a bit cynical when it comes to making big claims. I would say that we’re investing a significant portion of our capital in automation – in the greenhouse, pack line, and growing system.  This decision was influenced by owning and operating a smaller greenhouse for years and recognizing the repetitive tasks that are present in greenhouse operations. The goal of automation is not to replace employees, but to automate the tasks that are repetitive and do not add value, freeing up employees to perform more important tasks.

I see automation is a tool in our toolbox.  We’re not a technology company. At the end of the day, our job is to be a sustainable business that grows lettuce at the right price. The focus of the investment and all our innovations is to do that as efficiently as possible.

Can you share more about your partnership with Taylor Farms?  How will this collaboration help you reach more customers?

Better Future FarmsTaylor Farms is one of the largest salad and fresh cut vegetable processors in the world and all our lettuce will be marketed under Taylor Farms’ Earthbound Farms brand. David and I have both been at this for a long time and we know what it takes to build a brand.  So, we wanted to team up with an existing brand rather than build a new one from scratch.  We talked to several companies and when we met with Taylor Farms, our objectives, philosophies, and values all aligned.

I’m not the type of greenhouse grower seeking to displace field growers.  The way the industry is now, greenhouse/controlled environment agriculture production is miniscule compared to what the large California farms put out.  But these western growers see a need to diversify the supply chain.  Retailers are asking for it because of food safety issues. And, together with post pandemic freight, shipping and other supply chain , water, and weather challenges, it’s gotten more complicated –and more expensive.  Greenhouses/CEA can help diversify the supply chain by allowing these large players to grow product closer to the end user.

We have a great relationship with Taylor Farms and are so excited to be working with them.  For me, starting as a smaller, niche grower, it’s a huge honor to be growing for the largest lettuce producer.

Can you speak to any specific sustainability initiatives or practices that Better Future Farms will implement in its operations and how they align with Generate Capital’s focus on sustainable agriculture?

Generate Capital is a leading ESG public benefit corporation focused heavily on building and financing solutions for clean energy, water, waste, agriculture and more.  They’d been looking at the CEA sector for some time.  While we are their first investment here, I expect they will be very active in this space, and not just with us.

We certainly share their focus on sustainable agriculture and have several sustainability initiatives in our operations.

We are harvesting all our rainwater. Virginia consistently gets 44 inches of rain distributed throughout the year.  We expect that 90-95% of our irrigation will be reclaimed water.  As part of our 14.5-acre facility, we have a 2-acre retention pond that can hold 2.5 million gallons that we’ll be pulling into the greenhouse and using for irrigation.

We’ll also be using 100% LED lights, so there will be no high-pressure sodium lighting and less energy use.

And we’ll always be on the lookout for even more ways to use the least amount of inputs and energy to be as sustainable as possible.

What are your long-term goals for Better Future Farms? What do you hope to achieve in the next few years?

Our goals are to build out multiple facilities in Virginia and other geographical locations, add different products, and grow our partnership with Taylor Farms.

In terms of crops, we’d like to offer different types of lettuce and, possibly, berries.  We want to become a diversified producer. The challenge is you need to marry products that complement each other. For example, lettuce and strawberries work well together because they both travel in the cold chain.  Tomatoes and vine crops need to be on a warmer truck.

What’s next for Schuyler Greens?  Will you still be involved?

I wouldn’t be doing this new project without the knowledge and experience I gained from launching and building Schuyler Greens.  I’ve owned Schuyler Greens for more than 9 years now and it encompasses 225 acres outside of Charlottesville with a greenhouse in the middle. I will be keeping Schuyler Greens separate from Better Future Farms.

Schuyler Greens is better off as a traditional farm with a greenhouse on it as we don’t have access to the infrastructure or flat terrain needed to scale up a large greenhouse. The value for me is that Schuyler Greens is a true working farm with cattle, timber and other resources.

We really live in an Amazon world today.  The pandemic certainly accelerated some of the structural changes and put a spotlight on supply chain issues.  Just like consumers, wholesalers and retailers want product all the time so it’s essential for growers to keep up the pace of demand or risk losing business.

The bottom line is that all farming is economies of scale. To consistently produce every day of the week and be sustainable, reliable, and dependable for your customers –whether you’re a small niche grower or a mega-grower– is hard work.    At Schuyler Greens and Better Future Farms, we’re committed to meeting the needs of our customers and partners and are excited about the future.

To learn more about Better Future Farms, visit   www.betterfuture.farm

To learn more about Schuyler Greens, visit www.schuylergreens.com

HYVE® & AGEYE® Announce Strategic Partnership Aimed at Bringing Next Generation of Innovation to Indoor Farming

(Verona, Virginia February 15, 2023) –   HYVE Indoor Farming Systems, a solutions-based, manufacturer of Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) systems and AGEYE, a preeminent leader in automated platform monitoring for vertical farms and greenhouses, today announced a strategic partnership aimed at bringing unmatched complete technology to the CEA industry and commercial growers.

HYVE is Central Virginia-based and offers complete hydroponic growing solutions with an emphasis on hardware, design, and system infrastructure. AGEYE, from the greater Raleigh, North Carolina area provides sophisticated artificial intelligence capability that monitors every plant within a system for more predictable harvest outcomes and the resultant effect of more profitable harvests.

According to Ron Acorn, President of HYVE, “Our goal remains to provide a total and complete scalable solution for indoor farming. We trace our origin to the LED lighting industry and initially began in CEA by offering a range of LED grow lights. Over time this has evolved to complete systems that include everything from heavy duty racking, controls, food grade trays with automated movement, robotics, nursery, seeding, harvesting equipment, automated tray cleaning, and more. The strategic partnership with AGEYE will now further enhance HYVE systems by providing growers with the choice for a comprehensive integrated artificial intelligence capability that will allow for revolutionary plant and system monitoring.”

Nick Genty, Co-Founder and CEO of AGEYE says about the alliance: “AGEYE’s focused core competency has been software and artificial intelligence (AI). Our AI systems utilize visual inputs and growth development insights and essentially turn them into autonomous actions within a system’s architecture. What this means for a grower is that we have a sophisticated means to monitor the health and development of crops through every stage of the growth process and invoke actions that will help to identify abnormal growth patterns that may adversely affect harvest and profitability. We can mitigate issues at an early stage leading to much better outcomes for the grower.”

He adds: “We are excited to partner with HYVE as we view their systems to be the perfect fit for our artificial intelligence solution. Their platform is a complete and robust scalable technology answer and our system as an integration will provide those in the controlled environment sector an unmatched choice. Together we will create truly exceptional outcomes by bringing to market an automated turn-key solution that can really be viewed as the standard for the next generation of vertical indoor farming systems.”

HYVE will be exhibiting at Indoor Ag-Con in booth 619. AGEYE Technologies is a platinum partner of Indoor Ag-Con and Nick Genty will serve as a moderator for a discussion on “Avoiding Nutrient Imbalances” the second day of the show.

More information on HYVE can be found at www.growhyve.com while additional information on AGEYE can be found on the company’s website www.ageyetech.com.

 

 

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.

‘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