“The past year has really proved our proposition as it has never been proven before,” says Rick Vanzura, CEO at FreightFarms. “The pandemic put a huge focus on supply chain security, local food access, and how to handle disruption to a supply chain, and we saw that having a modular farming solution that can be put next to people where they need food fits in perfectly. Some segments have suffered, while our farms have proven to be a great solution.” The company has seen demand going up, with 2020 being a record year: Freight Farms tripled revenue versus the prior year and set a record for orders.
Recently, Freight Farms and Arcadia have partnered to provide Freight Farms' U.S. customers with access to clean energy for their everyday operations. With this partnership, Freight Farms and Arcadia are taking strides to align their respective industries, moving indoor farming into a more sustainable future. Freight Farms’ customers can now connect the utility for their container farm to Arcadia to match 100% of the farm’s electrical usage with clean energy.
Tackling sustainability pillars
“We already have a number of current farmers that have signed up with the Arcadia energy offering. It was a really important milestone for us as sustainability has been a core mission since the founding of the company.” Rick identifies the sustainability pillars in farming as soil conservation, water conservation, food miles, and energy usage. “At Freight Farms, we have always performed very strongly in the first three categories. Our farms have no effect on soil; they use very little water (5 gallons/day, or 19 L/day), and they reduce food miles significantly, sometimes to zero. What remained for us to solve and why the Arcadia partnership is so crucial is energy,” Rick notes.
Before the Arcadia partnership, energy was the only unsolved part of the sustainability pillars Freight Farms hadn’t tackled yet. The recent partnership has given access to clean energy to all small business farmers. “With the presence of clean energy, we believe there hasn’t been a more sustainable farming solution similar to this one before.
Freight Farms looks at sustainability through the triangle of labor, yield, and power. They are increasing the output per unit of input. According to Rick, Freight Farms is far down the road in the development of greater efficiencies in their farms, focusing on optimizing for yield per unit of power and continuing to research renewable energy options. Rick says that “Everybody’s success is a collective success as we’re all relying on the industry as a whole... We’re all bound by this mission to create a more sustainable planet. Therefore, anything we can do in our own small way, we’re ready to do.”
Improving farm efficiency
On the product side, the company is doing updates to everything. “We made our farms more efficient, delivering value in several aspects, working on different renewable energy in all forms. The ROI has never been better than this farm, because of the intersection of output and efficiency gains. As we’re big believers in helping the industry as a whole for good, our ultimate goal is to be NET zero ultimately.”
While Freight Farms customers already span 46 U.S. states and 32 countries, Rick believes that the company will expand into more locations this year. This growth is stimulated by recent investment and team expansion. “By the end of 2021, we’re expecting to be in every US state and several other countries. Ospraie Ag Science led our last fundraising round, where they invested heavily in our ability to do research. Therefore, we’ve added lots of strength to the team over the last year.”
As a plug of vertical farming, Freight Farms is collaborating with MIT sustainability lab students together on a project. The project is about working in conjunction with the government, and public- and private partnerships around sustainability. “The goal is to be part of something where brilliant people are willing to donate their time and energy. This is just one example of many where people want to pitch in and help as we all want to have a more sustainable planet,” Rick notes.
“We’re not trying to solve for renewable energy on a location by location basis. That would be the route to go with today, but it’s a solution limited to the United States as of now,” Rick affirms. Freight Farms is always on the lookout for partners worldwide where its services can be made available.