“If energy is the biggest pain point, then we are definitely on the right path as traditional farmers are struggling with other great issues such as labor, pesticides, stimulants, drought and other external factors.” Pointing out that solar prices are now about the 10th of the price they used to be, Peter Bachmann, Managing Director of Sustainable Infrastructure at Gresham House vertical farms can definitely tap into renewable energy in the long term.
Today, the first day of the Vertical Farming World Congress was inaugurated just across the famous Tower Bridge in London. With tricky, but rather informative panels, the current hurdles, improvements, and most importantly, the opportunities in vertical farming were discussed and highlighted. Making sure to keep the audience’s attention, panel leader and event co-organizer Richard Hall kept the audience sprightly by asking cheeky questions here and there keeping the discussion rather amusing to listen to.
Energy: a pain, but ‘positive’ push to rethink business models
Not to be missed, the buzzing energy topic entered many discussions as well. Growers and researchers mentioned that, although it stays a toxic relationship, these hurdles have caused them to rethink their resource consumption in general.
Jones Food Company founder and CEO James Lloyd-Jones said that the rising energy costs have made them much smarter, moving plants forward, specifically around energy. “We should stop talking about what’s the next big crop like berries, wheat, etc. We should highlight the business models instead that are selling leafy greens and are making a real return. Once that return is in, we could use those returns to take on the next challenge and or crops.”
Furthermore, the focus was laid on better thinking about locating your vertical farm. When building a vertical farm, the location must be the key critic before constructing anything. When doing a thorough analysis, farms could benefit a lot from renewable energy and waste streams to improve efficiency and secure long-term contracts to save costs.
Shifting away from traditional farming
Some of the opportunities highlighted were the growing workforce for vertical farming, shifting away from the ‘stereotype farmer’ which is mostly portrayed as an older person, now there’s a growing workforce that is inspired by this new type of farming. New jobs in data, agronomy, and technology are created which tremendously lowers the average age of farmers nowadays.
When discussing the growing interest in vertical farming from traditional farmers, Derek Smith (James Hutton Institute) commented that there seems to be a misconception about farmers are they’re often seen as non-technology-oriented. However, some might not, but in general they are often using the latest technologies to grow and cultivate their lands. “They might be a bit critical because they just want to see the technology work.”
Click here to register for the event to join online in the coming days.