Agriculture Discussion

Influencer

“Total world population reached 7 billion just after 2010 and is expected to count 9 billion by 2045.”
National Institute of Health
“Unsustainable agricultural and aquaculture practices present the greatest immediate threat to species and ecosystems around the world.”
World Wildlife Federation

We’ve all heard the alarm.

As human population continues to rise, so does the concern about how we are going to feed ourselves. In agricultural industries, the push is on to produce more and more food with the limited space that we have. The environmental impact our food system — from producing, packaging and distributing our food — is on everyone’s mind as of late. People have genuine concern about how our current agricultural model impacts our planet. Recent substantial investments into indoor vertical farming technologies shows just how serious people are about tackling this issue.

The big question is: what do we do about it?
” SoftBank Invests in Largest Ever Agtech Deal, a $200m Series B for Indoor Ag Startup.”
- AgFunder News
“Vertical Farming Gets Real: Bowery Farming Raises $20M For Its ‘Post-Organic’ Warehouse Farm.”
- Forbes

We’ve seen the headlines. We’ve heard the stories. It looks as though agricultural production is heading off in a completely new and different direction; indoor, vertical farming.

But, will this move solve our agricultural production challenges?

What specifically are the problems we are trying to solve? And HOW are we planning to solve them? This is, in fact, the (more than) $200 million dollar question!

Let’s see how these new companies proposing to address those challenges … and how a longstanding industry leader, using constantly improving technologies, is already solving them around the world.

Environmental Impact/Sustainability:

“Agriculture is a major user of ground and surface water in the United States, accounting for approximately 80% of the Nation’s consumptive water use and over 90% percent in many Western States.” — USDA

Most indoor vertical farming companies propose the use of closed loop hydroponic systems to effectively produce food with no waste of water or runoff. These systems use over 90% less water than conventional agriculture and release zero waste into the environment.

AmHydro, of Arcata CA, has been pioneering these high-production growing systems for over 30 years. These systems keep young plants tightly spaced together — only expanding the plant spacing as the plants grow. This allows output that is more than 30–50 times more productive per square foot or per acre of land. These systems have demonstrated performance (in terms of both quality and yield) superiority over all tested vertical counterparts. (one example:https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/going-vertical-increase-your-yields-lets-look-might-surprised-swartz/)

In addition, the AmHydro NFT leaf crop systems are the ONLY growing channel system that uses FDA-Food Grade Approved Virgin HDPE, making them food safe, recyclable, and highly sustainable.

Here is a high density AmHydro NFT system producing high quality, pesticide-free lettuce:

Pesticide, Herbicide, and GMO Free:

Indoor vertical farming companies tout the production of crops that are grown without the use of pesticides. Biological pest control (chemical free pest control) has been practiced for many years by growers worldwide. However, indoor vertical farms are in no way immune from insect or disease pressure. Producing crops without the use of pesticides requires a high level of skill and experienced management. AmHydro has been an industry leader in biological insect and disease control — working across the globe with experts leading the field in this area to produce protocols, methods, and procedures to produce high quality pesticide-free food. In fact, many of these indoor vertical farming companies have in fact reached out to Amhydro for bio-pest control guidance. AmHydro also works with certified non-GMO seed companies, allowing their growers to produce local, pesticide, herbicide, and GMO free food.

Crops receive IDEAL growing conditions: the perfect temperature, humidity, nutrition, and lighting

Environmental manipulation for crop production is nothing new, this has been achieved with Controlled Environment Agriculture for many years. However, the advancement of many technologies — particularly lighting, environmental control, and crop nutrition have advanced substantially. Amhydro works with leaders in all of these industries around the globe — constantly evaluating and testing new technologies — hand in hand with those who develop them. This allows AmHydro to work with the world’s best, and to choose the most productive, sustainable, and cost effective technologies available for use. This also means that new, cutting edge technologies get tested and proven in the field (or the greenhouse as it may be) so that top performers can be immediately evaluated and used by growers. Utilizing this technique, AmHydro growers in 65 countries around the world produce the highest quality, most consistent production, with the highest return on their investment.

Even in the harsh climate of the Middle East, AmHydro systems and ever improving technologies allow growers to produce the highest quality, freshest, and most nutritious crops for their local communities!

Locating farms close to population centers:

“By planting our crops indoors in vertical rows, we can grow as close as possible to the communities we serve.” — Bowery Farming

This is one of the most common advantages that we hear about indoor farms. And, for the most part, it is one of the greatest advantages that controlled environment agriculture brings to the food production landscape. Indoor farms such as Plenty, Bowery, and others propose to bring locate their farms within 40–50 miles of major cities. This will greatly reduce transportation costs and provide a fresher, more nutritious product. “Same day harvest to delivery” is a common refrain as to the benefits of these farms. We look forward to seeing more of these.

However, currently, AmHydro has commercial hydroponic farms within 40 miles of 35 major US cities……….and that number is growing! These are all commercial scale farms, producing high quality, sustainable food for these population centers. Some notable installations include:

Gotham Greens, in New York City:

Lufa Farms, in Montreal (Leading the Urban Farming Way in Canada!)

Go Green Agriculture, San Diego CA

Small scale, local urban farm, Harlem Grown, Harlem NY

Salt Lake City, Utah

Using high level data collection, AI and IoT

“But what if we could control all the variables that go into nurturing a healthy plant, creating the perfect environment for each and every one to thrive? In fact, thanks to Plenty’s sophisticated system and patented processes, we’re truly able to control every aspect of a plant’s existence.”
-Plenty

As we advance, our ability to grow more food, better quality food, in more localized areas, with limited distribution footprint, becomes more and more important every day. We are hearing discussions of using technology to closely monitor our crops in order to better control their environment. The promise of technology in CEA is that farmers can develop the most nutritious, fresh and contaminant-free foods available, and to better utilize and conserve our precious resources, such as nutrients and water. Fully integrating these processes to facilitate production, growth, harvest, distribution and sales of fresh produce is highly desirable for the farmer and the consumer. Data-driven business models that can be located virtually anywhere and producing on scales from very small to huge mega-farms seems the stuff of futuristic new-world paradigms. However, these technologies are no longer futuristic, they are being used every single day in our food production processes. As quickly as these technological tools are being developed, they have been implemented and are continually refined throughout our farming industries. The is not a phenomenon specific to Controlled Environment Agriculture, but certainly this is where we are seeing the most explosive growth. This integration of Farming and Tech is not new, nor are most of the real innovations happening in the lab. They are happening today in the field, in the greenhouse, and in the grow-rooms. Industry leaders, such as Priva, Argus, HortiMax, Hoogendoorn Growth Management, Argrilyst, and Wadsworth Controls have created the highest level of data and control technologies available anywhere (*apologies to other industry leaders — no omission intended.) AmHydro (and others) work on a daily basis with these pioneers to provide unsurpassed data collection, aggregation, and utilization for growers large and small. From production tracking, food safety, labor management, environment, nutrition, distribution, and sales, the ability to collect, track, and use data is happening today at every level. While we see much in the mainstream media of the “new” and “innovative” advancements in controlled environment ag data management, the simple fact is that this has been going on in commercial horticulture for a very long time. Yes, recent technological advancements have opened many exciting new doors, but there are many industry leaders who are already on the other side of it.

So, while the title of the article was a bit tongue-in-cheek, the future of our food production isn’t coming……..it’s here

And yes, the ever-increasing speed of technological advancement DOES make it “new” and “innovative,” there is no need to look from the outside to find it. The great men and women of our agricultural system are taking our ability to feed ourselves….from growing, to handling, to distributing, our food…….to new heights, each and every day.

Joe Swartz www.AmHydro.com

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