AGTECH

A New Meaning for Farm to Table: Vertical Farming Out of the Box, Literally

January 21, 2021



Israeli agtech firm Vertical Field is bringing the farm to a city near you with their controlled environment agricultural systems. 

Their setup is not based on hydroponics though – instead they use real soil along with a proprietary blend of minerals and nutrients in a pod that can be built right out of a standard shipping container.

No green thumb required
Steve Jobs would be proud – this is high tech without the fuss.  You don’t need to learn farming to make this work.  The Vertical Field farm has automated growing sensors that monitor climate, soil condition and lighting.  Irrigation and fertilizing of the crops is also automated by the software. And the entire operation can be controlled via the company’s app. 

200 lbs. of produce from a farm in the parking lot
As an example, the company explains that one container pilot farm with a growing space of 400 square feet yielded around 200 lbs. of produce per month which was harvested daily. A potential hitch is that LED lighting has to stay on for around 16 hours a day, but the company is looking into solar powered alternatives. 

That may be the Achilles heel of vertical farming for now.  They use less land and 95% less water but light and heat ends up consuming more energy than traditional farming. Lights need to run for 12 to 16 hours a day and heating must be used in the winter.

  • Miguel Povedano, chief operating officer of the group that runs the Carrefour franchise across the Middle East, Africa and Asia, says vertical farms cost 20% to 30% more than traditional ones. 

Early traction

  • Israel's largest supermarket chain, Rami Levy, signed an agreement with the company to roll vertical farms into dozens of store locations over the course of the next five years.

  • Moderntrendo SRO, a large agricultural distributor in the Ukraine, signed up for a pilot project to start with supermarket chain Varus.
  • Farmers & Chefs restaurant in Poughkeepsie, New York started producing its own fresh greens in April 2020.

Record funding in the vertical farming space in 2020
$754 million of venture capital flowed into the space in the first three quarters of 2020, according to PitchBook – a 34% increase from FY2019. 

There are naysayers that think the technology is too energy intensive and the range of what can be grown is limited, so whether this is a niche trend for foodies or a more sustainable food production solution remains to be seen.


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