It was impossible for anyone to foresee a pandemic, let alone the massive disruptions and shortages in all sectors—including food. And yet, the food supply chain, one of the most important sectors of the economy, was impacted from field to consumer.
ZipGrow, the vertical farming technology company, was already resilient, ready, and responsive. Though they experienced a few delayed orders from customers, overall, 2020 was a year of growth for the Cornwall-based company. To wit, in 2020, ZipGrow bought a new 18,000-square-foot facility at the corner of Cumberland and 7th Street which gave them the capacity to consolidate three rental units into one, hold more inventory, distribute products more quickly to customers. They also supplied equipment to the first-ever vertical farms in the Middle East.
To put this growth in context, you must first understand ZipGrow’s technology. First, ZipGrow works with lightweight, modular towers that can grow high-density produce. One five-foot tower can produce 10-12 lettuce-sized plants while an eight-foot tower can produce 16-20. As cool as that sounds, for company President Eric Lang—who by the way, was born and bred in a traditional farming family—vertical farming isn’t about high yields in small space only. “This is about disrupting the concept of growing all the vegetables and fruits we consume in places like Arizona and California where they are essentially watering the desert,” he says. “We’re breaking down the old distribution models, which are flawed, and bringing the food producer back into local areas.”
Eric knows that the future is all about more centralized food systems and that ZipGrow is positioned to lead the way. The company is fielding calls from grocery store chains that want to sell hyperlocal products, instead of relying on the distribution chain. “They want to sell fresh produce. We sell equipment to grow that produce. We just need to find the farmer,” he says. They’ve started looking to fill that gap. In 2020, they formed a three-way partnership with a Switzerland-based ZipGrow farmer and national grocery store chain. In the long term, says Eric, “We want to provide our farmers with more than the equipment. We want to guarantee them sales too.” With plans and preparedness to meet the needs of a passionate local fresh food movement, ZipGrow is without a doubt cultivating the future.
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