In the Fort Worth area in Texas, a vertical farming company is producing greens. This company is looking to expand all over the world with their 1.5 acre greenhouses. Eden Green Technology strategically place their greenhouses close to cities, shortening the shipping time of the fresh produce from farm to consumer to less than 48 hours. CEO Eddy Badrina talks about the company.
There were no problems with deliveries due to COVID-19, because the vegetables are grown locally. “I think that is going to be the game-changer in the coming months and years,” says Eddy, “the ability of companies like ours to grow food locally and at scale.” Prior to COVID-19, the benefits of ‘local’ were more qualitative. People felt good about buying from local farmers, maybe it was even a little romanticized. Post COVID-19, ‘local’ takes on a whole new meaning. It means accountable, because people know and trust where their food comes from. “Local means ‘safer’, because the food isn’t kept in warehouses and processing plants as long, but gets to consumers’ shelves and fridges faster. And since the supply chain is minimized, the food is always available.”
“Because the USDA has been so focussed on COVID-19 in processing plants, and less on safety inspections, we are likely to see an outbreak of e-coli or salmonella,” states Eddy. “It only takes one producer or processor to become lax in their food safety standards for an outbreak to occur. Until the big players in the industry realise that the government can’t inspect safety into the food supply, this will continue to be a problem. That’s why I’m proud of the fact that customer and food safety are intrinsic to our core values, and not just a program to follow.”
Every plant zone has an independent nutrient water system with pumps that run 24/7. There is also a backup generator that makes sure, if the power went off, the company can still provide water to the plants. The system constantly monitors the water flow rate and pressure at three different spots in the system. “We also run routine spot checks in which we manually check the return to the tanks, to ensure accuracy,” says Eddy. The automated fertigation system monitors and doses the amount of nutrients into the irrigation system.
“We use a perpetual harvest,” tells Eddy. “This means that we are able to harvest the same amount of plants every day, and in turn we also seed and transplant the same amount daily.” The grow time for the different varieties varies, but with a pertinent crop schedule, harvesting can be done every day. The company uses a diversified crop schedule to harvest different crops at the same time in the same growing system.
The company supports other growers by raising awareness about locally farmed produce, poultry and dairy products. “We know that vertical farms are only a part of the answer to feeding our communities,” says Eddy. It takes multiple local food sources to feed cities and towns, and Eden Greens goal is to support local farms and food delivery platforms like Profound Microfarms by partnering with them to provide complete meals and grocery delivery packages. “We try to shine a spotlight on them in every way possible.”
During COVID-19, the company sees a growing demand for both vegetables and plant-based meat alternatives like Beyond Meat. “With people forced to eat at home more, I think many are taking a closer look at what is in their refrigerator and pantries, and scrutinizing the nutritional values of what is in there. As they become more aware of what is going into their bodies, people are starting to understand the benefits of vegetables and produce, and the amplified drawbacks of processed foods when you are more sedentary, and stuck at home,” says Eddy.
“From the government and municipality perspective, leafy greens are one of the most densely packed delivery mechanisms for daily nutrients, so it is natural that we see food banks and shelters asking for more vegetables. This pandemic is teaching us the truth of Hippocrates’ age-old wisdom ‘Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food’”.