"For me, over the next 3 to 5 years is proving to the pragmatic market that this is a technology that makes a lot of sense, not to replace traditional farming but to augment it where it is needed. It is also a sustainable farming model. As we proliferate the technology in that fashion, then being able to push this out to places where people need food is ultimately the win for me," says Don Taylor, CEO of AmplifiedAg, in a recent podcast to CDC Tech Life.
Don talks about the origin of AmplifiedAg, the development behind the company's platform, and the impact that the farms and software have on the industry.
Personally, Don likes to see Amplified's solution in places where people need food. "Ultimately, our mission is to localize and modernize agriculture for farmers and communities across the globe. In order to do so, we've built a software platform, an electronics and control platform to manage the farms. On top of that, we also have the farm technology itself that we are deploying to third parties," he shares.
Initially, Don chose shipping containers because they are deployable. They are also made to go on ships, so his thinking was that they could build and easily deploy them to regions of the world that wouldn't have an opportunity to produce food. Being a software engineer by trade, it was kind of a science experiment for Don.
As a digression, he started BoxCar Central in 2001, which was a warehouse management software company. He took that core foundation of logistics and built the farm control systems on top of that.
"As we got further into the process of building the software, we realized that farming is also a very complicated logistics problem. So through that process, we ended up with a software platform that manages all of the farm operations and manages all of the control systems. In this way, farmers can go on their phones and check the temperature, humidity, CO2, and all of the elements inside of the farm."
As Don continues, it took on a life of its own when the team started Vertical Roots, which was a commercial brand two years into the technology build. However, the team felt like they needed to operate at scale to prove the technology. Don praises the team for doing a fantastic job at building that brand. Now, Amplified is focused and centralized on technology sales and deployment.
Milestones over the years
One of Don's milestones in his career is being able to start deploying technology to farmers and other third parties. The USDA chose Amplified's technology as the sole source provider for CEA technology. The team is conducting research and growing various types of crops, such as rice, broccoli, and high-protein products.
"When going back to the original vision of the company of deploying farms and technology to places where people need food, lettuce is probably not what you want to deploy. So I'm very excited about the partnership we have with them."
Remedy the high-cost
Running a farm on LEDs consumes a lot of electricity. From a unit economics perspective, it's one of the biggest challenges of vertical farms. For that reason, Amplified has been working on designing a new set of lights in the past few years. LED technology has advanced significantly, as every year, it's exponentially improving.
"We're creating our own lights with specialized spectrums that mimic the sun very neatly. Surprisingly, we're seeing lower power consumption and larger plants, so ultimately, we are using less energy to grow more food."
When it comes to solar, Don's view is that over the next 5 to 10 years, as solar really takes hold and as the efficiencies get to where they need to get to, it will really launch CEA farms in a big way.
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Don Taylor, CEO