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US (IL): Indoor AgTech well underway

"There's no inditement on the industry because of that dark cloud of investments, but there's a huge need for indoor grown greens. Despite the interest rates that have gone up, capital might seem to have dried up but that shouldn't limit a grower to scale in a sustainable and profitable way," says Viraj Puri, CEO of Gotham Greens at the opening panel of the Indoor AgTech.

The Indoor AgTech has been well underway. Moving away from the busy streets of New York, the show has found a new home in downtown Chicago. With a decent balance of vertical farm and greenhouse operators at the show, a diverse crowd came down to Illinois to talk about the changing, but 'picking up' CEA landscape.

"The arguments of vertical farming are stronger than ever, and that validates the promise and potential of the industry. The questions for us is around proving it's a sustainable business, a profitable farm and addressing the pain points in retail that customers need," says Jed Lynch of 80 AcresFarms when talking about the potential of the indoor farming sector.

Addressing the changing Investment landscape in CEA with Stephan Dolezalek (Grosvenor), Paul Sellew (Little Leaf Farms), Jed Lynch (80 Acres Farms), Viraj Puri (Gotham Greens) and Abby Prior (Bright Farms)

It's all about collaboration! The Innovative Growers Equipment booth with Lettus Grow, Growtainers, HydroFarm and Kind Farm Services

Whilst only 5% of the US market is served by indoor farming produce, there are numerous opportunities to yet be taken by indoor producers. However, the fact stays, 'we're just growing lettuce so the economics have to make sense.'

Diving into the specific preferences of customers in retail, "the salad category isn't growing but the salad brand is growing," Abby Prior with BrightFarms commented. "We're sellers and growers of food-branded products that build loyalty. We often talk about financing and technology but not enough about that none of this works if we don't address the needs of our consumers, who make choices with their money and diet, driving the demand."

The Hoogendoorn booth talking about partnerships with TC Controls and about all-in one process computers for CEA operators

Adam Goldberg, Craig Frymark and Don Cronin with Iunu were in bright spirits

"We're often talking about the dried-up capital in the market, however, all the money went to the vertical farms it seems, whilst the CEA market is 90% dominated by greenhouses," says Paul Sellew with Little Leaf Farms. As Paul explains, Bright Farms' strategy was to start small, make mistakes and learn from them. Then, scale up to meet the market demand. "This now turned into Bright Farms being able to tap commercial banks to continue the growth path as we found a financing environment that's 'normal'. The market is doing really well as it's good at picking the winners from the losers. The winners are the operators that made corporate profitability."

Automation for vertical farms, but make it affordable! Maximilian Knight and Eric Roth

Today the last day of the event will take place, highlighting pain points such as carbon footprint, operational control through software, lowering resource consumption, increasing the product range in vertical farming, and scaling CEA through sustainable models.

Click here to view the entire program for the day.