Plenty Unlimited enters vertical farming in Compton, California, as a new warehouse company fulfills all the requirements needed, from a secure truck yard, 32 feet high ceilings, and truck routes access.
Plenty Unlimited will use the huge storage to establish an indoor vertical farming facility planned to be operational in the later months of 2022.
Arama Kukutai, the company’s CEO, terms vertical farming as the ability to acquire productions irrelevant to the weather or place while keeping the terms of the lease undisclosed. A West Coast-based commercial real estate firm, Kidder Mathews, tallies a vacancy rate of about 0.6% in Compton.
Plenty Unlimited has an established trade with Albertsons supermarkets in the supply of lettuce that is grown outside San Francisco on a small farm. Walmart is soon going to be selling products of Plenty Unlimited in California, but things don’t stop here. Plenty Unlimited is aiming to explore categories of growing other than vegetables as it has announced to collaborate with berry seller Driscoll’s by developing an indoor farm for strawberries only in the Northeast.
As the supply and demand chain gets stronger in the former section, the distribution process is affected, which in turn is convincing the consumers to adopt eating habits that are healthy. Furthermore, crop yields are also affected due to the changing climate, which invites new methods like vertical farming, where artificial light is used with technology – a process or opportunity attractive enough for many investing companies.
However, there are challenges for the industry like expensive energy, technological boundaries, and expansion process to produce more affordably.
Biosystems engineering professor at the University of Arizona, Mr. A. Giacomelli believes that controlled environment agriculture has existed since the 1970s. However, the new affordable prices of LED lights actually made indoor production rise. In 2015, the prices of LED lights dropped by a percentage of 94 from 2008.
Vertical farm – the term became popular thanks to Dickson Despommier, an emeritus professor at Columbia University in environmental health sciences. A data analytics firm, ResearchAndMakets.com, believes that vertical farming is expected to boom from $3.1 billion in 2021 to a whopping $9.7 billion in 2026. In addition, 33 deals were observed by a software financial data company called Pitchbook from Seattle, which amassed $960 million in 2021. These figures were $865 million in 2020, whereas 2019 had them at $484 million.
In Atlanta, Cox Enterprises acquired BrightFarms, a greenhouse grower, whereas Novus Capital merged with another greenhouse operator, AppHarvest. However, as the utility costs increase due to operating systems, LED lights, and sensors, scientists often warn about the limitations of the technology. In addition, the scientists believe the operators would turn into warehouses rather than food production facilities, which are never profitable for food production houses, according to Professor Giacomelli.
Numerous vertical farms are being operationalized around the world. For example, vertical farming company, Kalera is growing culinary herbs and vegetables in Atlanta, Houston, and Orlando. Kuwait and Munich have also entered this food production category, and this year’s later months will see new farms opening in St. Paul, Honolulu, Seattle, and Denver; one farm is set to open in Columbus, Ohio, in 2023.
When it comes to acquiring intellectual information about these farms, such as structures, materials, designs, and farming systems, the venture is quite challenging as the companies heavily protect these intellectual properties.
According to chairman and CEO of Agrico Acquisition Corporation, Brent De Jong, every company has it secret weapon of some kind that it keeps hidden. His company announced going into a merger with the previously mentioned Kalera in the first month of 2022.
Kalera’s director of operations, Austin Martin, says that you can put and run a vertical farm anywhere as long as the building meets the height criteria and affordable utility costs. Other basic requirements for establishing a vertical farm warehouse are to have major highways accessible, allowing you to reach population centers daily along with a workforce that is educated enough to handle the system.
Mr. de Jong expressed in an email that the production of semiconductors is similar to producing micro-greens and leafy greens as they all require a controlled environment for the manufacturing process.
Neil Mattson, a horticulture professor at Cornell, also talks about vertical farming. According to a norm, he believes that the stacks of plants achieve around 30 feet in height, and the remaining space is left for packing, harvesting, and sometimes packing. However, industrial standards or any common metrics are yet to be observed.
Agricultural growth in a controlled environment transforms abandoned industrial graveyards into food production sites, as witnessed in Pennsylvania, serving Virginian markets from Richmond to Boston. Scheduled to open in May, formerly a steel plant (150,000 sq. ft.) is being transformed into a vertical farm by Bowery Farming from Manhattan in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Bowery owns three farms in Kearny, New Jersey, one of which is commercially operating to serve e-commerce companies and grocery stores in the Northeast. However, the other two farms are dedicated to R&D. Another similar company that is currently drawing power from its hydroelectric power plant in Nottingham, Maryland, is planning to expand to Dallas-Fort Worth and Atlanta.
According to Darren Thompson, who is the chief financial officer at Bowery, the new farms would be better if they were similar in size to Bethlehem because it is hard for him to manage the costs when the sizes vary.
JG Petrucci Company’s executive vice president, Peter Polt, claims that the building used at Bethlehem was built to be supported by fiber-optic cable, heavy power, and water and sewer capacity. The company also built the office space and building’s shell, which is being used for cultivation process instead.
Working in the Pennsylvanian governor’s action team as the executive director, Brent Vernon informs that proximity is being requested by developers for food distribution to save costs of transportation. TIn addition, the team is working to attract business owners to Pennsylvania. Vernon believes the grants and funding from the state are subject to evaluation based on various factors like job creation, unemployment rates, and brownfield redevelopment.
According to Pennsylvanian officials, 70 full-time jobs will be created in the next 03 years as Bowery commits to invest $32 million.
Upward Farms from Brooklyn is building a warehouse on 250,000 sq. ft. in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, located at a distance of 100 miles from Manhattan. The company is currently using fish waste as fertilizer acquired from aquaponics in its vertical farming.
Co-founder and CEO of Upward, Jason Green, says that the distance between the consumer and leafy greens is reduced by local production, which is appreciable. In Selinsgrove, Further west is beginning to develop 05 new greenhouses that will be 10 times bigger than the 280,000 sq. ft. existing greenhouse owned by BrightFarms. This news was unveiled by the CEO of Brightfarms, Steve Platt.
It is sometimes an understood fact that expansion is the only way to attain sustainability in the agricultural business. A company willing to sustain itself may not be able to only rely on certain crops. It has to include different varieties in its production, just like Bowery Farming jumping to the limited distribution of strawberries in New York. This was told by Pennsylvanian secretary of agriculture Russell Redding.
However, some scientists are skeptical about the industry’s sustainability and expansion ability keeping the current technological limitations in view. Bruce Bugbee from Utah State University in Logan justifies this claim by saying that tomatoes use 60% more electricity than lettuce, and strawberries take that amount up to 120%. Bugnee is the director of the Crop Physiology Laboratory. He also believed that LED lights have 70% of the actual efficiency compared to their theoretical efficiency.
Morgan Pattison exclaimed in vivid words regarding the efficiency and price of LED lights. He stated that the LED lights would not drop their prices any further, and investors would be facing a tough time if they ignored the physical limitations of the LEDs. He is an adviser to the Energy Department and the president of the Solid State Lighting Services in Johnson, Tennessee.