“Running a farm is quite a complex learning process, therefore we’ve removed the entry barrier from a learning curve point of view to form the actual system,” Alexander Olesen, CEO and co-founder of Babylon Micro-Farms.
Babylon has set up a remote management platform connected to sensors and cameras to run the majority of vertical farms through the cloud. The company set out to develop technology that would automate the complex aspects of indoor farming and in doing so make this method of crop production accessible to anyone.
“For us, the challenge is to aggregate the data from all our farms so we can continuously learn to do things better. We’ve automated all things around shipping, supply, and all of the other factors that come along. Our advantage is that we really start to dial in recipes, support software for specific crop types, and even for specific markets. That becomes quite powerful and it drives product development. It’s a really interesting software, transferrable to all sorts of hardware, and represents a big step forward for small-scale vertical farms. It reimagines the user experience and opens up the market for anyone who wants to start sustainable plant growing,” says Alexander.
Local and sustainable sourcing
Babylon Micro-Farms has seen an expansion of the local food movement. Meaning accelerating trends towards more sustainable and local produce sourcing. “The time is now, as there has never been such a great focus on sustainable- and local food sourcing. Also, on the fact that all micro-farms can labor superior products on-site, giving all the benefits of food production. Therefore, it has been really exciting for us, and certainly for the industry as a whole,” Alexander notes.
The last year has been really exciting for the company as a lot of their technology has been out in the field. As Babylon’s main takeaway is to remotely manage farms, they literally had to do so. Once the lockdown was in place, in the US, they were tested in a good way. Alexander adds, “It has proven we can support a network of farms without ever setting foot on-site. That was a huge prove point for us.”
There are growing pains within any business, says Alexander, in terms of scaling, distribution, and support. “Support for a network of small micro-farms is something no one has even done successfully before. We provide automation and high-service without the need for boots on the ground. It’s a phenomenal leap forward for the industry I’d say, but it’s not without its quirks and we’re still learning a lot and overcoming these hurdles.”
'Removing the green thumb'
The company provides a high level of support that is designed to remove the green thumb from growing, according to Alexander. “We’re opening the market of vertical farming to institutional service operators, businesses, communities, etc. In this way, customers are supplying their own products that are harder to source and to be rather independent. Next to that there’s a huge appeal to have stuff on-site as it’s great to explain what kind of business you are and the experience it gives is certainly exciting. I think we’re taking a rather different approach to the industry than others. It looks like it’s working and that’s exciting for us,” Alexander notes. Babylon Micro-Farms is also currently targeting the expansion of its micro-farms distribution throughout North-America.