“With Venezuela facing the decline of the oil industry, there is a great chance to produce food here because, without oil, there is no port (or import) agriculture,” says Dr. Diogenes Infante, founder, and director of the Caracas-based container farm, Agricola Biofarm CA.
Dr. Infante has extensive experience in plant production, having earned a doctorate in plant biotechnology and worked several years on the propagation of tropical plants using somatic embryogenesis. Dr. Infante conducted significant research on cacao, agave, coffee, and cassava production and participated in developing a process that increases the productivity of cassava sixfold. Alongside his impressive research career, Dr. Infante founded Agricola Biofarm CA which is reportedly the first intelligent urban farm in Venezuela.
“Our indoor farm started on paper in 2017, then our production started in 2019 as a pilot project with two containers that my business partner and I made from scratch. We see the opportunity to create something new in our country,” says Dr. Infante.
Agricola Biofarm CA is comprised of two 35-square meter shipping containers, for a total growing footprint of 53 square meters, and a warehouse outside of the containers. The farm is producing several kinds of lettuce and roughly 15 types of microgreens. In both cases, Agricola Biofarm CA is constantly innovating with new varieties.
According to Dr. Infante, the farm produces 125 packages of 250 g of lettuce per week and has recently shortened the production cycle to harvest younger and improve the appearance, texture, and taste. With regard to the microgreens, Agricola Biofarm CA sells in multiple formats depending on the customers.
The farm produces approximately 120 packages of 25 g, 154 packages of 30 g, and 24 packages of 100 g, the last only available to restaurants. Arugula is the farm’s best-selling product.
New facility in the works
Agricola Biofarm CA is currently working on a new facility with ten times the production capacity of its current facility. The goal is to have the new facility online by June 2022. The facility will be located in a shopping mall, with a large showcase that will display the production room and demonstrate the system.
“One of the duties I have set for myself is to push innovation in agriculture in my country and show people that it is possible to do new things. Urban agriculture is the solution that helps cities to be self-sustaining,” explains Dr. Infante.
Advice to new entrants?
When asked what advice he would give to vertical farming newcomers, Dr. Infante explains that new growers should not expect the returns to come easily and soon. Also, he recommends learning as much as possible about plant biology and placing innovation as a top priority.
“Newcomers need to learn as much as possible about plant biology and how to handle the vast amount of data needed to do well in this new form of agriculture, this Agriculture 4.0. Innovate as much as possible as this is a changing field,” says Dr. Infante.
For more information:
Agrícola Biofarm C.A.
Diogenes Infante, PhD, Director