"The power of a real brand is to connect shoppers with the product and how the product has been made. If you want people to make more sustainable choices of the food they buy, we have to give more information on the business behind the food," says Kate Hofman, Founder of GrowUp Farms, as she dives into research they conducted on shoppers in the UK. It appears that shoppers want a salad that lasts a week. One of the most remarkable results is that if consumers know they would waste less, they would buy more salad and more often.
Adding onto that, Kate affirms that a branded salad allows to engage with the consumer base and have that ongoing conversation with them, continuing to improve the product. 'There is just one branded salad available in the UK, meaning that they see a unique opportunity here to communicate the offerings of vertical farming benefits in the UK market.' However, the audience found otherwise, as they voted in a poll that a mainstream brand in vertically farmed produce has the most potential. I guess we'll see.
Andreas Wilhelmsson and Kate Hofman
On the second day of the Congress, various entrepreneurs were able to share their innovations, products, or the things that drive them in the industry. From berries to skin care, to 'supernormal products' to growers in Hong Kong, Japan, Israel, and back to London.
The power of a brand
Pushing for transparency on LCAs, Andreas Wilhemsson, co-founder of Ljusgarda, pointed out the importance of sharing knowledge with peers in the industry. Gaining market share with its current offering of two mixed salads, Ljusgarda is aiming to secure its position in the Swedish market below the organic prices. "Hitting this price point, we are talking about margins, becoming a volume product instead of a premium product," he shared.
Tapping into new products
Attendees found that cosmetics have great potential as the next big thing for vertical farming, with fewer votes came Saffron, then strawberries and tomatoes. Whether products could be combined with cosmetics, which several companies are yet applying. To strawberries, however, even David with Smartkas found that Saffron is still one of the bigger cash crops that have huge potential in the sector.
With a critical view of vertical farming on why and where it's needed, Philip Lee with Evolve International spoke about the evolution of vertical farming. Shifting away from pretty green buildings in the past to co-locating vertical farms at optimal locations to look at low-cost electricity, using waste, or creating synergies to make production even more efficient.
The Vertical Farming Awards
After a hard day of work, attendees came down to the Gala Dinner, which was held on October 10, to let everything sink in. Once some bottles of champagne were popped, it was time to reveal the winner of this year's awards, announced during the dinner. Celebrating excellence and innovation across the global vertical farming industry, entries were invited in 10 award categories spanning crops, technology, sustainability, and commercial initiatives.
Best Crop Innovation: UrbanKisaan – Bred Okra seeds to be grown in vertical hydroponics, other plants include tomato, chili, and brinjal.
Best Crop Enhancement: Spread – Techno Fresh
Best Yield Improvement: Vertical Future – 24% increase in energy conversion efficiency for whole-head lettuce production
Renko Schuil accepting TTA's Best Tech Development award.
Best Technology Development: TTA – bHarvest: high-tech harvester for indoor-grown crops
Best AI/Automation Development: KETOS – KETOS SHIELD
Best Farm Design Innovation: Vertical Future – INFT
Best New Vertical Farming Facility: Nippon Koi Farm Pte Ltd – Singapore SG Aquaponic
Acting 'super normal,' Andrea Wilhemsson was rather happy with Ljusgarda's Product Marketing award.
Best Product Marketing: Ljusgårda/Supernormal Greens – A completely normal salad grown in a Supernormal way.
Best Business Diversification/Development: Bowery – Bowery Salad Kits
Best Sustainability Initiative: ELLEPOT A/S – 18.4 Tons Plastic Reduction with Ellepot System for Hydroponic Farm
Keep an eye out for the photo report, which will be published this Friday. If we forgot to take your photo, please send your photo to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can include you in the report!