Greenhouse and vertical farming experts from Gotham Greens, Local Bounti, Little Leaf Farms, Oishii, Vertical Harvest and Upward Farms will join the Indoor AgTech Innovation Summit in New York. Ahead of the summit, they share their thoughts on exciting new crops, huge expansion plans, and the biggest challenges they’re facing.
What are the next emerging crops or markets you plan to explore?
Craig Hurlbert, Local Bounti: “There is still a lot to explore within leafy greens, brassicas, herbs, and other fruits and vegetables. Similar SKUs are seen nationwide from CEA production. However, Local Bounti’s Stack and Flow Technology will unlock broad SKU diversity that is not currently available in the broader CEA space. For instance, everyone in the industry is talking about berries, but few if any have landed on a scalable, profitable solution with strong unit economics. The key to successfully taking berry production indoor is ultimately about technology – enabling a better and more local product for the consumer, emphasizing superior flavor, longer shelf life, while also drastically reducing food miles. Ultimately, our focus today is on expanding the lettuce and herbs category. Though, as we look to new emerging crops and markets, we will be solving for unit economics first and only pursuing opportunities where the application of Stack and Flow will lead to a profitable and superior product for the consumer.”
Paul Sellew, Little Leaf Farms: “Leafy greens are a multi-billion dollar category in the US with retail and food service. There is an enormous opportunity to capture share in leafy greens alone through expansion and product diversification.”
What are the biggest challenges you’re facing?
Viraj Puri, Gotham Greens: “The total addressable market for crops that can be grown indoors is growing significantly year over year and remains under-penetrated by indoor farms. Our challenge as an industry is to collectively rise to the occasion with the necessary scale, consistency, quality, and sustainability to meet this unprecedented opportunity.”
Nona Yehia, Vertical Farm Harvest: “There’s no doubt CEA will be an important part of our future food systems, we’re all racing to establish our footprint, but the good news is we’re nowhere near fulfilling the total addressable market. The challenge is to grow fast and scale in ways that stay true to our values. For us that’s about our social impact, but also climate. While we’re great on water conservation, toxin reduction and arable land preservation, it also means continuing to drive down emissions through different clean energy strategies.”
Brendan Somerville, Oishii: “We simply cannot meet the demand for our amazing Omakase Berries. We have retailers and consumers across the United States and the world asking for us to expand into their markets, so the pressure is on! Since the industry is still quite new, we have to roll up our sleeves ourselves and we’ve been able to be one of the few commercial-scale indoor vertical strawberry farms in the world. It’s a competitive advantage though, as we are building in-house capabilities and full control of our process from building farms to growing plants to distributing product. Oishii is growing rapidly to meet demand and we’re recruiting people with a similar passion and motivation to bring indoor vertical farming to a commercial scale across the industry.”
What does a successful roadmap to national and international expansion look like for you?
Viraj Puri, Gotham Greens: “We see a bright and promising future for controlled environment agriculture. Gotham Greens’ expansion into the South with new greenhouses in Texas and Georgia, along with the expansions of our existing greenhouse footprints in Colorado, Illinois, and Rhode Island, illustrates a huge step forward in achieving our ultimate goal of growing fresh produce that can be delivered within less than a day’s drive to most U.S. consumers. By doubling our greenhouse capacity in 2022 and moving into brand new regions of the country, Gotham Greens will expand our retail sales and meet the growing demand for greenhouse-grown produce across the U.S.”
Jason Green, Upward Farms: “Upward Farms is currently constructing the world’s largest indoor vertical farm located in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. Our new 250,000-square-foot facility is expected to be up to 2-4x the size of the next largest vertical farm operated by peers. This farm will provide fresh, locally sourced, USDA Certified Organic microgreens and sustainably raised hybrid striped bass to consumers throughout the Northeast. Our strategy is to broaden our product and channel mix to drive increased household penetration while continuing to expand to new markets across the US in 2023 and beyond.”
Paul Sellew, Little Leaf Farms: We need more time. We need to build as much as we can as fast as we can. Doing what we do requires highly specialized skill sets. We need to raise awareness and opportunities to move people into CEA careers.”
For more information:
Indoor AgTech Innovation Summit