“The pandemic has played a substantial role in triggering the food industry to change and evolve in important ways. Also, supermarkets and retailers are starting to better understand their supply chain, especially now,” says Guy Elitzur, CEO of Vertical Field.
Vertical Field, a developer of vertical growing systems, has seen great interest during the past few months. “On the consumer side, people have grown increasingly more concerned about food safety. Our vertical farms can supply retailers without having the dependency on the food supply chain. The benefit of having a container farm is that only the assigned person is in contact with the fresh produce,” he adds.
Guy Elitzur, CEO of Vertical Field
Most growing containers are located outside of supermarkets, so as not to capture any selling space. Growing produce in a closed environment means a sterilized, strict agronomical protocol and a pesticide-free cultivation space. This ensures growing without any pesticides, maintaining the health and safety of both consumers and crops. “It takes about 45 minutes to an hour to manage the farm, harvest the produce, and pack up. By applying such a short timeframe it’s impossible to develop any type of pest. Furthermore, the speed at which food appears on the supermarket shelf is evidence itself of a safe and secure process. Especially as it pertains to dense urban ecosystems.”
Most container farms are grown with hydroponic systems. Guy points out that Vertical Field chose to develop a geoponic (soil-based) platform for a particular reason. “At the end of the day, it’s all about efficiency. Take the operational skills, costs, and crop quality for example. Growing with soil is not only less costly, but plants were designed to grow in soil. We think it results in much better crop quality,” Guy notes. The farms are very easy to run, alongside with the growing platform. In terms of the production, at this stage, a 30-foot container farm produces around 10-12 tons of fresh produce a year.
Farm size, not an issue
“There are big companies that are converting warehouses into scalable farms, which is a great solution itself, but the unique advantage of growing produce in containers is that they can provide a modular solution, which enables you to completely control your climate and limit pest disasters. It’s all about addressing the most important issue: bringing the farm into the cities. Growing near consumers creates lower dependency on the food chain and a shorter distance to them. With our farms, we can already partially tackle food shortages,” Guy notes.
At this point, the electricity use of Vertical Field’s container farms is standard. Guy notes: “We are developing a renewable energy platform, which allows the farm to be self-sufficient in terms of electricity. We will eventually be able to put the farm at any place possible. At this point, the farm functions at temperatures between -20 and +45 degrees Celsius. However, we’re conducting research on developing a wider range of climates.”
One of the newest farms, located right outside of Rami Levi Bnei Barak.
At first, regular Israeli consumers were in disbelief about the fresh produce being supplied from the growing container. “Throughout the process, when running an errand and coming across our products on the shelves they eventually really started to appreciate our produce. We have a repeating amount of customers that are constantly returning. Many have been switching to our brand,” Guy affirms. The extra attention has resulted in increasing traction to supermarkets that have a container farm installed.
Guy Elitzur, Founder and CEO of Vertical Field