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Australia: The future of vertical farming is about right sizing rather than super-sizing

“Instead of rolling out mega-farms, we’d rather build suitably-scaled farms that cater to – and can flex with – regional and seasonal needs. We believe that growing exactly what is needed, where it is needed, and in the quantities needed is going to be the key to the success of vertical farming. Shortening supply chains to cut down food miles and waste while delivering superior freshness are some of the key arguments for the adoption of vertical farming. However, these benefits are often lost if we focus only on very large ‘mega-farms as the key to achieving commercial success,” says Paul Millett, Co-founder and CEO of InvertiGro, an Australian vertical farming technology solutions provider.

Bettina Kramer and Paul Millet

InvertiGro has developed an innovative approach to indoor vertical farming. Their fully integrated “plug and play” modular solutions focus on resource efficiency, flexibility, and scalability. The company has two core hardware offerings: the InvertiCube and the InvertiWall.

InvertiCubes: the ‘building blocks of commercial-scale farms
Each InvertiCube can deliver up to 40 grow meters to deliver highly space-efficient farming. Internally, these sealed grow cubes (1.5m x 1.5m x 2.3m) can be configured and easily reconfigured to deliver optimal resource efficiencies and yields, along with the ultimate flexibility to grow a wide, and ever-increasing range of crops for food, fodder, pharmaceuticals, and forestry.

“We’ve designed every element of our solutions to be flexible and simple to use. A single farm hand can add or remove grow trays to easily switch between crops such as microgreens, herbs, or berries. Our unique docking system means that as soon as the trays are pushed into place, water and lighting connect like a kettle connecting to its base without the need for any further connections or adjustments,” explains Paul.

Compatible with standard pallet-racking, readily available materials handling equipment, and existing horticultural automation, InvertiCube farms can be scaled infinitely and affordably.

“A grower may start out with as few as 5 cubes which have the capacity to produce approximately 2.5 tonnes of herbs, 5 tonnes of lettuce or more than 10 tonnes of microgreens per year; and add capacity with more InvertiCubes as their business grows” Paul explains. “With individual cubes being able to be configured for different crops, growers also enjoy the benefit of being able to grow a wide range of crops in the same facility – producing what is needed and in the quantities needed for their supply region.”

To keep things simple for the grower, InvertiGro’s tried and tested grow recipes are programmed into InvertiGro’s integrated farm management and control software.

The InvertiWall seen in Woolworths

InvertiWalls: A productive showcase for retail, restaurants, and beyond
InvertiGro’s second hardware offering, the InvertiWall, is available in a rotating vertical column configuration or a horizontal tray configuration – or a combination of both, again providing the flexibility to grow a wide range of crops with maximum space and energy efficiencies. With a fully customizable casing, the InvertiWall is proving a popular choice with resorts, restaurants, schools, and retail.

A proven solution is the springboard to global expansion
InvertiGro has partnered with Australia’s largest grocery retailer, Woolworths, to supply a range of fresh produce to two of their flagship stores in Sydney. Supplying these stores continuously for nearly 18 months now, the bulk of the produce is grown in InvertiGro’s Global GAP-certified showcase farm facility just a few kilometers from the stores that they are supplying. In-store InvertiWalls provide a visible showcase for the vertically-farmed produce available in the supermarkets, with InvertiGro teams also harvesting directly from the InvertiWalls each week to top-up the in-store supplies.

This successful partnership has allowed InvertiGro to prove its own technology in a real-world application – an invaluable R&D exercise and a powerful practical demonstration of the possibilities with their solutions. It has also earned InvertiGro a finalist place in the 2022 World Vertical Farming Awards for Best Retail Innovation and first place for the Australian Technologies Competiton in the Supply Chain Resilience category.

Together with their right-sized flexible farming concept, this initiative has captured international attention, and InvertiGro is now preparing to deliver their complementary InvertiCube and InvertiWall growing solutions to customers in Australia, the Gulf, and the UK over the coming months.

What’s next for InvertiGro?
Whilst InvertiGro rolls its technology out internationally and inbound sales inquiries grow each week, the company is also continuing to expand its offerings through additional crop ranges. Recent developments have included InvertiCube modifications to successfully grow a wide range of exotic mushroom varieties, including Lion’s Mane, enoki, oyster, and shitake; and since securing a license to grow hemp, InvertiGro has also successfully grown these crops to prove their capabilities and test their commercial applications. Meanwhile, InvertiGro’s crop range now also includes a wide variety of native species that can be grown for forestry and landscaping applications.

The Australian company is currently raising Series A funds and seeking aligned investors and like-minded distribution partners to help fuel its growth globally.

For more information:
Paul Millett, Co-founder and CEO
Unit 6, 26-34 Dunning Ave
Rosebery, NSW 2018, Australia