“Our system and vertical farming could work very well in Mexico as it uses so little water and other resources compared to traditional agriculture. That’s due to the lack of access to fresh food, which makes it rather appealing to local communities. The social impact of it as well, it could be a good source of revenue for low-income communities and provide food security at the same time,” says Jessica Gomez, Founder and CEO of Origeen, an agtech in Mexico.
Jessica Gomez pictured at the Indoor AgTech
Potential in LATAM
Jessica hopes to see LATAM integrate systems like Origeen that have the solution for producing more year-round, low-resource use and reducing the waste of water. Yet, most importantly, integrating it as part of the strategies to create food security.
“Food security in LATAM is a problem, most of the communities of low income do not even have access to fresh food. With vertical farming, this can change, especially with innovations like our system that can be installed almost everywhere. I would like to see LATAM grow strong in farming and grow food more sustainably, especially in vertical farming in greenhouses.”
The system is seen in a hybrid setup inside a greenhouse
Modular and scalable
As Jessica explains, there is very little information available on indoor- and vertical farming in Mexico. Luckily, Karla Garcia with HortAmericas has been mentoring Origeen’s team on the latest R&D and improvements in the past three years.
“We started a mid-scale project with the government here in small projects. Then, we tapped into more projects from small to large scale. Mexico really surprised me because many are looking into these growing solutions. Given the modularity and scalability of the system, it can be greatly used in a hybrid setup. You’d only need to add AI and lighting to make it more manageable. When thinking of a greenhouse setup, we can have walls on both sides and make them up to 4m tall and broad as long as a customer wants.”
Although the system might be labor-intensive, there are plenty of ways to automate the projects depending on the scale. “We have different ways and also collaborate with other companies to do that, depending on how automated the client wants their farm.”
Starting out with green walls at first, Origeen, later on, decided to pivot to grow walls that could grow edible leafy greens instead. “Working with agronomists showed us our systems are really versatile.”
Using recyclable plastic, the DIY grow walls allow home- or commercial growers to purchase affordable systems that can be combined with hydroponics and drip irrigation. Given the modularity, the system becomes a bit more labor-intensive. Thus far, the following greens have been cultivated: leafy greens, lettuce varieties, cilantro, and parsley.
Currently, Origeen has an ongoing project with a greenhouse in Mexico that would like to install an entire column (which comprises how many m2?) so they can grow hybrid. Supplying globally, the team is now working on a bigger pot that could work for strawberry cultivation at a commercial scale.
Besides all the ‘-ponic’ methods, regular soil and substrate can be used in the pots as well for strawberry cultivation, e.g., “We have been testing strawberry cultivation together with a client who is now validating the results. Then, additional tests are run so we can bring in more pot and grow wall designs to obtain better results.”
Jessica gives away that the team is looking to expand into more projects. Yet, that’s only possible when they are backed by investors to take them to the next level. “We’re looking for an investor with the same vision as us. With a money injection, we can try other varieties and conduct more R&D.”