Tuesday, July 9, 2019

"U.S. vertical farms are racing against the sun"

These are not scrappy little startups, it's big, big money.
From Reuters:
Leafy salad greens grown under banks of LED lights, with mist or drips of water are having their day in the sun. Several top U.S. indoor farms, stacked with plants from floor to ceiling, tell Reuters they are boosting production to a level where they can now supply hundreds of grocery stores.

Plenty, Bowery, Aerofarms and 80 Acres Farms are among young companies that see a future in salad greens and other produce grown in what are called vertical farms that rely on robotics and artificial intelligence, along with LED lights. While the first versions of modern vertical farms sprouted about a decade ago, in recent years the introduction of automation and the tracking of data to regulate light and water has allowed them to get out of lab mode and into stores. Now they are trying to scale up.
Plenty and others say their customized, controlled lighting - some more blue light here, some more red light there - makes for tastier plants compared to sun-grown leaves and that they use 95% less water than conventional farms, require very little land, and use no pesticides, making them competitive with organic farms. And because vertical farms exist in windowless buildings that can be located in the heart of urban areas, produce does not have to travel far by fossil-fuel-guzzling trucks to reach stores....

April 2019
"The Economics of Local Vertical and Greenhouse Farming Are Getting Competitive"
March 2019
Former Twitter CFO Joins SoftBank-Backed Farming Startup Plenty
March 8
K@W: "Why Venture Capital Likes Modular Farming"
December 2018
Citi: "How Innovation and Shifting Consumer Preferences Can Help Feed a Growing Planet"
A few notes up front.
1) You have to read past the buzzwords and buzz concepts. There is a lot of good information here but also a lot of hand-waving.

2) The situation is not yet dire. On the other hand, should the world experience two consecutive years of crop failures in any combination of the breadbaskets: northern China, American Midwest, Ukraine/western Russia then there is serious risk of famine.

3) This topic seems to bring out everyone's inner totalitarian and getting past that will be required if there is going to be agreement rather than insurrection.

4) Keep in mind this report was put together by a bank with something to sell. It might be loans, it might be green cred, it might be consulting services, it might be anticipating regulatory actions, it might be propaganda.
Take from it the ideas and data that support your priors and be open to the ideas which which don't.
December 2018
GV, Google’s Venture Capital Arm, Leads $90 Million Round For Indoor Farming Startup, Bowery
July 2018
Is Vertical Farming Really the Future of Agriculture?
January 2018
Bezos/SoftBank-Backed Indoor Farming Powerhouse Plenty Planning for 300 Farms in China
October 2017
Tesla's Former Battery Director Joins Farming Startup—UPDATED
December 2017
"This Is Why Jeff Bezos Is Spending Millions on an Indoor Farming Startup"
December 2017
A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Europe’s Huge New Vertical Farm
December 2015
AeroFarms Raises $20 Million for High-Tech Urban Agriculture

The Other Musk: Overthrow Big Agriculture?