“Providing self-sufficient production is our ultimate goal. We are ready to provide key solutions for countries looking to realize food security,” says Ellie Kim, PR Director at N.thing, a South Korean agritech company.
Climate change, food safety, COVID-19, everyone must be familiar with these terms. Recent events have made the search for food supply in many countries even more pressing as many countries were having trouble securing their food supply. Especially for countries that are heavily dependent on imports, last year can be deemed as an eye-opener when it comes to food production.
In the upcoming years, N.thing has its eye set on several flourishing geographical markets. “At this point, we’re focusing on South Korea and the UAE where we have several projects running. Our next target market is Southeast Asia such as Singapore, as it’s very similar to the Middle East market,” says Ellie. As a large amount of food is imported in these areas, Ellie sees great opportunities lying ahead. There’s a high demand for vertical farms with great investments, in order to get self-sufficient solutions in their own countries. Once they’re settled in Singapore and the Middle East, the company aims to also lay a focus on Russia.
The N.thing Cubes
As the 2018 container farms project in Seoul proved to be successful, the company expanded its operations to the UAE. Ellie says that this experience has triggered to explore the Middle East market. We kicked it off with two container farms at first as some kind of climate testing model at a pilot testing site. In 2019, we started operating a 15 container farm model in other Korean cities for distribution. In March, a proof of concept will be finalized for the Abu Dhabi farms. Ellie adds, “Hopefully, we will be able to deliver good news to expand a farm site to 80 farms in the UAE. Then, we’ll be able to produce 200 tons of crops per year for their local market.”
N.thing operates farms in the UAE and Korea, supplying hotels, restaurants and grocery stores. The company is pushing forward on its expansion due to the rapidly developing market and the increasing demand for home delivery in South Korea. “Within this year, we’re realizing a 100-container farm site in Korea. Our farms increased with 30% more productivity through large R&D investments, to its previous model. This enables us to distribute crops for the high summer demand on light leafy green,” Ellie adds. Another exciting project is our mega farm testing in order to supply the high needs for the global market.
The UAE is one of those countries challenged by a lack of inland food production is. As a post-oil industry, they are highly interested in Agtech solutions to lower the percentage of imported food. Along with that, with an increase in the average income and a high population of inhabitants with a European background, food consumption habits have changed. For that reason, the country has been attracting agrifood companies to sustain the local growth of fresh produce.
Inside the Cube
Since the N.Thing cube is a standardized modular type of farm, it can be applied in multiple situations. Next to that, both small-scale and larger farms can be built. “We are focusing on business expansion in the Middle-East and Singapore, as those markets are known for their high dependence on imports for food resources. Their arable land is limited, and that is why indoor farming provides such fascinating possibilities. We are very much ready to help them find key solutions in improving their local food security.”
Another focus of the company is sustainability. “Not only our farming method is sustainable, but also our farms’ components are designed to be fully sustainable.” This sustainability, with low production costs as a nice side effect, is ensured by keeping the entire development process in-house. All sensors, modules and LEDs are designed and developed within the company. This saves costs, and allows the team to keep full control of the product. Also, a new prototype of artificial soil has been developed, with the aim of reducing the high cultivation costs that indoor farming usually implies.
“We aim to reduce human labor by working on robotics. With every product we supply, transferring knowledge regarding maintenance and cleaning is a key component of our service. This way, we ensure that the product systems are used properly. We want to be able to cultivate crops with a stable quality over years.”
Two different concepts
The company offers two different concepts, the first one is Farming as a Product (FAAP). “FAAP is all about standardizing every part of our farms and cost-efficiency. Everything is made in-house from software to hardware in order for prices to stay low,” Ellie says. N.thing offers its products at a reasonable price through mass manufacturing processes, which according to Ellie, is a great competitive advantage on the global market. “We’re able to build farms much quicker, we’re expanding our flexibility and we’re able to easily ship them on a vessel.”
A second concept N.thing offers is FAAS, which is its Cube OS, that enables cultivation anywhere located. “Our goal is that everyone can grow fresh crops automatically, checking data in real-time, anywhere. Clients have access to our research, processes, and training,” Ellie adds. Once a container farm is purchased, the company offers two training periods, to thoroughly educate all parties involved with running the farm. “With this turnkey system, such as software, hardware and training, we can realize localized vertical farming business globally.”