This story is about technology which is revolutionising 10x bigger industry than software — agriculture.
We are facing real challenges in agriculture. How will we manage to feed an increasing number of people with the limited space? How can we attract young people to be farmers? How will we manage to grow with no chemicals harmful to our planet? How will we deal with the climate change? But let’s start with a story of a man who established first New York City vertical farm.
Kimbal Musk is a businessman, chef and owner of Kitchen Restaurant Group — community restaurant located in several U.S. cities. In 90s, together with his brother Elon, he established Zip2 — the online city guide software provider. They started with almost no money — slept on the office floor, showered in the YMCA and ate alone — mostly fast-food. After selling Zip2, Kimbal went to New York City, found his passion for food and learned how to cook. After 09/11 he cooked for firefighters and saw how food brought them together in a specific way. After this expirience he decided to open a new type of restaurant. Place designed to bring people together in a sense of a community built around eating — The Kitchen. During the process of menu design he came across a problem with quality of industrial food supply chain. Industrial food is a mass production and it doesn’t taste good. It’s also a reason why over 70% of Americans are overweight or obese. Kimbal decided to dedicate his life to bringing quality food to people.
And that’s how Square Roots started. An indoor urban farm built with old shipping containers. Each container (30m2) is equivalent of 8000 m2 outdoor farming. It’s also water efficient using 30l of water (daily shower is 30-60l) a day thanks to the water enclosed circuit. Ability to control humidity, temperature, light and minerals gives a possibility to grow better quality, tastier plants faster. It uses artificial LED light but even though it is more energy efficient than traditional farms. Clients can choose certain greens for their custom subscription plan. In places like New York it’s the best way to get lettuce, herbs, rucola etc. Same technology is also the only way to farm in space and will be someday used on Mars. Vertical farming is also a way to get young people interested in the subject of breeding. In its first week the company has had hundreds of young people waiting in line to be a farmer in Square Roots. Expected salary of farmer in NYC is between $37K – $39K/yr.
Vetrical Farms technology is also used in Europe. The Netherlands – the world’s number two exporter of food as measured by value there are numerous indoor vertical farms. The Dutch are also the world’s top exporter of potatoes and onions and the second largest exporter of vegetables overall in terms of value despite relatively small size. Thanks to the controlled environment and stacking plants vertically, the Netherlands are producing 10x more plants per 1km2 in comparison to the world average.
The future of farming is bright – and it’s vertical.