"We used to have lots of controlled environment ag farmers coming to us looking for growing equipment. However, they couldn’t find the right equipment or couldn’t afford it brand new.”
Nicola explains that on the other side Contain would have manufacturers coming that had returned or seconds equipment, not knowing how to dispose of it. “It seemed like an obvious way to add something to the industry, by creating a specialized platform for indoor farm equipment.”
Nicola says “We started working on the project in 2019 and it has been a long process. The team has put a lot of time and effort into this making the buying and selling processes as fair and comprehensive as possible. We drew on the experience of everyone from Uber Eats through to experts at companies like payment processor Stripe. UX-wise we tried to make it as easy as possible.” Nicola explains that they felt the industry could use a platform where they could share equipment. The launch timing is fortunate as well.
The platform is not necessarily about reducing capex, it’s about offering more options to new farmers and existing growers alike. For new growers “You might not want to learn to drive in a brand new Mercedes. You will go buy a secondhand car that works just fine instead. It’s the equivalent of buying a used Honda Civic, reliable and a much better fit for your needs” Nicola adds.
She explains that it’s an easy way for existing farmers to add to their vertical farm. “It’s a good way of adding some pieces to a farm. Equipment manufacturers are also looking at the platform as a way to create instant bundles for their customers, or to discretely dispose of excess inventory.”
Helping new entrants accommodate quicker
Pretty much, every functioning industry has a secondary market, according to Nicola, and it is time for the rapidly expanding controlled environment ag industry to have its own. “There are of course places where you can trade equipment, like EBay and Craigslist, but they’re not designed for indoor farmers. Equipped was designed with the help of controlled environment ag growers with their specific needs in mind. We’re aiming to make the market more efficient.”
Equipped’s comprehensive range of listings each includes information specific to indoor agriculture, as well as the option to ask sellers for information. The platform launched with more than $2mm in the equipment listed, in categories from LED lighting and grow systems to automation equipment and even a 3D printer. It regularly drops new listings. Most equipment is pre-owned, but some is new or seconds. Sellers can opt to accept payment from international buyers if they wish, and the team has already seen inquiries from as far afield as Australia and the UK.
Buyers can “buy now” at a set listing price or make an offer to the seller. The team put a good deal of effort into making the platform secure, for instance, by running lien searches on listings over $5,000 in value. The platform offers referral to other services such as shipping and consulting, as well as offering finance and insurance options through parent company Contain. “We have several new features that we’re planning to roll out” says Nicola. “We’re aiming to make the entire experience convenient for buyers and sellers alike.”
As resource shortage is a notable topic these days, the Equipped team sporadically hears people concerned about supply chain shortages. “We see people being cautious about having products on hand. Equipped helps in that regard,” explains Nicola. At least you can get a hold of something if you need it right now. One final motivation for the Contain team was environmental: “any time we can reduce waste in the supply chain, and upcycle equipment, the Contain team is all about it” she concludes.