Tag: Local Food

Jennifer Waxman Seed2Source

Where Agriculture Meets Wellness: Q&A With Seed2Source Founder Jennifer Waxman

Jennifer Waxman The Villages GrownAfter successfully guiding The Villages Grown™ to its current position as a vertically integrated, 84-acre total footprint, controlled environment agriculture (CEA), year-round, produce growing operation in Central Florida,  Jennifer Waxman is heading back to her roots.  That is, she’s turning her focus back to Seed2Source, the firm she launched in 2005 driven by her “agriculture meets wellness” passion and vision.

Indoor Ag-Con is thrilled to have Jennifer on our Advisory Board, as a speaker at the upcoming CEA Summit East in Virginia next week , and Indoor Ag-Con in Las Vegas in February 2023.  We had the chance to catch up with this busy CEA industry leader to learn more about her vision and plans in this month’s Q&A

For the last 6 years, you’ve overseen the impressive growth and development of The Villages Grown.  Why was the timing right to leave that post to focus on Seed2Source?

We were given the honor and trust to carry out our vision and model for The Villages Grown. This included the strategic direction, design, construction, and operation of a first-of-kind CEA in the South. We backed this with educational programming from both B2C and B2B. We built a community-based brand yet grew enough product for expansion throughout Florida. We worked with beautiful people in a beautiful community.

However, it is no secret that CEA is only scratching the surface in the US. We knew we wanted to be at the head of the ride with its growth. Several players in the CEA sector were showing intrigue and interest in our model. I believe this was rooted in our ability to build a strong brand, educate, all the while supporting other local farmers along the way.

I’ve learned a lot since entering the hydroponics sector in 2000. This is when I started to conceive this model of holistic wellness and was based on my global travels, thus observing the ‘Future of Food’. There is a lot to share from a rather long career in this sector. I have experienced successes, failures, and have observed overall industry needs and voids. This is the exciting part and I wanted back in!

Share more about Seed2Source, your Sustainable Ag Business Consulting Firm focusing on controlled environment agriculture

Seed2Source launched in 2016 but was really an evolution of my first ‘Agriculture Meets Wellness’ firm which was launched in 2005. Seed2Source is a first-of-kind, Sustainable Agriculture & Wellness, consulting firm headquartered in Florida but serving the US (and beyond). The firm focuses on strategic CEA projects rooted in sustainable agricultural, food-as-medicine, and local food system models.

Our CEA experience includes Vertical Farming, Controlled Greenhouse, Aeroponic and Hydroponic Methodologies, Strategy, Branding, Distribution, Education, Innovation, and Science. We are a one-stop-shop and are surrounded by the best and the brightest in all operational units required for true success. We bring in different consultants as the projects deem fit. This allows us to take on both small and large projects as the market dictates.

At the upcoming CEA Summit, you’ll be speaking on 2 panels, including one titled “Building The Future of CEA”.  If there is one message you hope to get across on that panel discussion what is it?

The CEA industry is still at its infancy and shall evolve with continuous iterations and innovations. Typically, when most people think of CEA, they only think of High-Tech, AI, Automation, etc. and forget about the State of Agriculture in general. I hope people start to realize that CEA is ‘part’ of a solution and not the ‘only’ solution. Also, I hope that people don’t forget about the actual agriculturists and horticulturists that are the true heroes in creating a sustainable, profitable, CEA operation. This seems to be lost with many of the current players in CEA.

You’ll also be speaking at the 2023 edition of Indoor Ag-Con on a great session idea you brought to us, “Building A CEA Alliance:  The Power of Grower Partnerships.” Can you share a little more about this idea?

As it stands, there is little-to-no diversity in US CEA. Everyone is clamoring for funding, market share, and innovations in technology. I believe they are missing a huge opportunity for collaborations, strategic partnerships, and supply chain solutions. We must work together not only for larger supply chain opportunities in both retail and wholesale, but to truly exchange best business practices and the like. We should also be collaborating to keep domestic supply in our own backyard and with prominence. There is enough business to be had for all!

What’s next for you and the team at Seed2Source?  

Our vertically integrated CEA Model, of which we pride ourselves on, was clearly not an overnight success. We are still on this journey. This will continue to be the core of our mission and vision. The Vision – ‘Intersecting Agriculture with Wellness as a Food-As-Medicine Approach’ — will continue to drive our passion and expansion.

We feel strongly that this is the model for success and ultimate operational sustainability. We are being courted by some amazing operations – both new and old players in the CEA space – which has been rewarding. We will continue to build our CEA and overall Domestic Farm Partnerships and Educational Programming.

Learn more about Jennifer and her team at www.seed2source.com 

Q & A With 80 Acres Farms CEO Mike Zelkind

Indoor Ag-Con is excited to announced that 80 Acres Farms Co-Founder & CEO  Mike Zelkind will lead one of the headliner CEO Keynote presentations during our October 4-5, 2021 edition at the Hilton Orlando,Mike Zelkind CEO 80 Acres Farms Indoor Ag-Con Keynote Orlando 2021

Utilizing world-class technology and analytics, 80 Acres Farms offers customers a wide variety of pesticide-free food with a longer shelf life that exceeds the highest food safety standards.  And, this vertical farming leader has been making headlines over the past year in a number of areas — from the opening of a new farm to expanded retail partnerships, new research iniatitives and more.

Ahead of his upcoming Indoor Ag-Con October keynote, we had the chance to catch up with Mike to learn more about his company’s exciting developments AND  his thoughts on the fast-growing indoor farming industry itself.

We’re all very excited for you to share what’s been happening at 80 Acres ‘live and in person’ this October in Orlando at Indoor Ag Con – especially news on your incredible new Hamilton, Ohio facility, which opened in January of this year. How’s everything growing there? Any updates you’d like to share?

80 Acres CEO Keynote at Indoor Ag-Con 2021It’s been a fantastic year for us! We opened our largest automated farm in the Fall of 2020, scaling our technology and production 10x greater than prior. Yield, quality, and efficiencies exceeded expectations out of the gate and allowed us to hit our unit economics.

A few months later, we announced our expanded partnership with Kroger, offering nine products across over 300 stores in 4 different regions.

We were also proud to achieve the Kosher certification for our products, one more tool to communicate our promise of exceptionally high quality to consumers.

Lastly, we were honored to tell the story of 80 Acres Farms on a global stage on the BBC docuseries “Follow the Food.”  It was inspiring to showcase the farms we built in our revitalizing city of Hamilton, OH.

 

Help our readers understand your role as CEO of 80 Acres as well as that of your colleague, Tisha Livingston, and her role as CEO at Infinite Acres?

Tisha and I have been in the food industry for over 30 years each, running manufacturing and operations for some of America’s most-loved brands. We have worked together for more than a decade and decided to leave our careers and start our venture, 80 Acres Farms.Mike Zelkind and Tisha Livingston

We wanted to bring fresh food closer to communities, and we felt indoor farming was the answer. I am 80 Acres Farms CEO and Tisha, President. When we built our first commercial farm, not everything scaled as planned. Luckily, we had a fantastic partner, Priva, that was there to help us work thru the complexities.

80 Acres realized that to scale vertical farming, we had to collaborate with world-class companies, and Infinite Acres was born. We launched Infinite Acres in 2019 with our two partners Ocado, UK’s largest online grocer, and Priva, global leading horticulture innovators.

Tisha became CEO of Infinite Acres and resides in the Netherlands half the time each month. Infinite Acres now oversees the technology involved in building and scaling farms globally.

80 Acres is the preferred operator to create an end-to-end solution for customers. The partnership has strengthened our global presence and ability to scale the technology.

Given some of the big industry news of late regarding companies like AppHarvest, Bowery and others (AeroFarms SPAC), how would you describe what you are seeing in terms of industry growth, over the past say three years?

80 Acres Farm CEO Mike Zelkind Keynote Indoor Ag-con 2021Retailers and consumers have a growing appetite for fresh food grown indoors. Retailers want fresher food with shorter supply chains to significantly reduce supply inefficiencies, inconsistent quality and reduce food waste. In addition, consumers are more aware of how their food is grown and its effect on the environment. Therefore, they want food grown with zero, not fewer, pesticides with the highest nutritional value and grown close to store for longer-lasting freshness.

As for the industry, the technology advancements are maturing, better suited for the environments, and costs are coming down to make getting into the business more attainable and farms’ ability to become profitable.

Breeders are beginning to focus on identifying seed varieties beyond lettuce to find characteristics best suited for indoor environments, increasing yield, flavor, and quality.

The advancements in lighting, robotics, automation, breeding, and standardization have led to scaling. The industry and technology weren’t quite ready before now. The culmination of consumer desires and technology advancements has led to extreme growth for the industry. Together with, the great companies you mention above as well as the many other pioneers, we are reinventing the produce industry.  It’s an exciting time for agriculture!80 Acres Farms

Can you share any updates on research projects you have planned through the new collaborative research agreement 80 Acres has with the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station?

Years ago, we build our R&D facility In Arkansas. Late last year we began upgrading It to become a world class R&D Center of Excellence. Our neighbor, University of Arkansas, Is a logical first partner for the facility, but many more are coming soon. The partnerships we are forming are wholistic.

 

Don’t miss Mike Zelkind’s Indoor Ag-Con Orlando 2021 Keynote Address on Tuesday, October 5 at 11:30 AM
REGISTER TODAY!

 

New Sustainability Partnership Launched Between Sodexo and ZipGrow Inc.

ZipGrow and Sodexo Indoor Ag-Con Exhibitor NewsOn March 11, 2021  two international industry leaders, Sodexo and ZipGrow Inc., launched a first of its kind partnership to develop more sustainable local food chains throughout North America.

Sodexo, world leader in Quality of Life Services, has joined forces with ZipGrow Inc., the manufacturer of the world’s most installed vertical hydroponic equipment. Together they wll develop a unique program to introduce sustainable growing systems to facilities throughout Canada and the United States of America.

Introducing Innovative  Technology

One of Sodexo’s primary goals is to ensure all our operations are industry leading from a sustainability perspective. “This new partnership with ZipGrow Inc. not only enables us to reduce our carbon emissions of distance traveled for food source, onsite food waste, and packaging requirements, but also to introduce innovative technology to our facilities and team members”, said Normand St-Gelais, Director of Corporate Responsibility, Sodexo Canada.

ZipGrow Systems To Be Installed At Sodexo Locations

ZipGrow™ technology is a patented system that utilizes both hydroponic growing systems and vertical planes to maximize production volume within a small footprint. Primarily growing leafy greens such as lettuce and kale, along with herbs and small fruiting crops such as strawberries, ZipGrow systems will be installed in Sodexo locations including educational institutions, conference facilities, and corporate food service centres.

“Having been installed throughout the world over the past decade, our system enables growers, both big and small, to access fresh produce no matter where they are located”, explains Eric Lang, President of ZipGrow Inc. “We are excited to move ahead with this new partnership with Sodexo. Together we will be able to introduce sustainable food to Sodexo locations throughout North America.”

“As a Chef, we are always looking for ways to introduce the freshest possible produce to our kitchens”, said Chef Davide Del Brocco, Sustainability Manager, Sodexo Canada. “By having a grow system on site, we can now not only customize our produce to meet our upcoming needs, but we can also now harvest fresh greens and use them that same day.”Indoor Ag-Con Exhibitor ZipGrow

“Having like-minded partners like ZipGrow who understand what is important to us and who are aligned with our values and goals is crucial in working together for a Better Tomorrow.” said Andrea Cantin, Corporate Social Responsibility Coordinator, Sodexo Canada. With Sodexo and ZipGrow Inc. both having company values strongly embedded in sustainability, this new partnership will see this innovative agriculture technology being introduced to multiple Sodexo facilities in Canada and the US.

About Sodexo

Sodexo delivers a wide range of customized solutions, designed to optimize work and living environments. The company has been providing food and facilities management services in Canada for over 40 years, with a focus on enhancing safety, work process and well-being. A market leader in Canada, Sodexo has been recognized as a top employer for the past seven consecutive years. Sodexo is proud to have created the Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation, an independent charitable organization that has raised over $3 million to fight hunger and donated more than one million meals to at-risk youth across Canada since 2007. It is included in the CAC 40, FTSE 4 Good and DJSI indices.

Key figures (as November 2020)
420,000 employees
1st in its sector in both the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) and the 2020 SAM sustainability yearbook
64 countries
100 million consumers served daily

About ZipGrow Inc.

ZipGrow Inc. is an international leader in indoor, vertical farming technology. Our flagship product, the ZipGrow™ Tower, is a core component of many of the world’s most innovative farms; from indoor hydroponic warehouses to vertical aquaponic greenhouses and and high-density container farms. For more information contact hello@zipgrow.com or at 1-855-ZIPGROW.

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.