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  • Indoor vertical farms have been touted for their ability to grow

  • leafy green vegetables, like lettuce, in warehouses year

  • round. Bowery farming, one of the US's has largest vertical

  • farm companies says it can grow more than five and a half tons

  • of produce daily. And in a bid to expand its portfolio the

  • company is adding a new crop to its roster - strawberries. About

  • 90% of strawberries in the US are grown in California. The

  • state's strawberry harvest runs from early Spring until Fall.

  • Because we're grown close to the point of consumption. We can

  • pick these berries at the peak of freshness, and then they're

  • on shelves 48 hours later. With strawberries

  • it takes more steps because the leaf has to grow as does the

  • flower and the flower that become the strawberry fruit

  • actually has to be pollinated. So these companies have to

  • enlist the help of bees to pollinate those flowers to

  • ultimately become the fruit that people eat.

  • Vertical farms like Bowery use a mix of sensors, robotics and

  • automation to grow food that they say makes their produce

  • fresher, better tasting and better for the environment. But

  • vertical farms also face challenges including a

  • significant upfront investment and the use of extensive

  • lighting systems that are energy intensive. In 1935, there were

  • 6.8 million farms in the US. By 2020, that number dropped to a

  • little over 2 million. So with the global population expected

  • to surge to about 10 billion in the next 30 years and with the

  • vast majority of those people living in urban areas, can

  • indoor vertical farms like Bowery be a viable alternative

  • for growing the world's fruits and vegetables. In a warehouse

  • in Kearny, New Jersey, outside of New York City, Bowery's

  • indoor vertical farm stacks crops from floor to ceiling.

  • Using LED lights to mimic the sun and a continuous supply of

  • water and nutrients to feed its plants crops like lettuce and

  • arugula are grown year round. In addition

  • to the genetics piece, right the seed piece, within our system,

  • the variables that we play with our nutrients, lights, airflow,

  • and light it's not just the intensity of light, but it's the

  • photo periods. We could make a 28 hour day for our plants,

  • right, or 16 hour day depending on what we think the optimal

  • recipe is.

  • It is other benefits too. Bowery claims, it's vertically stacked

  • design can yield 100 times more produce compared to an outdoor

  • operation on a similar footprint while using 95% less water. The

  • company's crops are grown without pesticides and different

  • types of plants can grow side by side. Indoor farms also don't

  • have to contend with seasonal labor shortage like on

  • traditional farms. And growing crops closer to your customer

  • allows goods to be shipped from harvest to shelf in as little as

  • 48 hours. But indoor farms face significant challenges including

  • hefty startup costs, higher urban rents and steep energy

  • costs to power LED lights and ventilation.

  • In general is still in the very early stages. A lot of the

  • companies that consumers see on shelves are pretty limited in

  • what they can grow. It's a lot of different types of lettuce,

  • but I spoke to a vertical farming expert and she was

  • saying you know people can't live on salad alone. These

  • companies need to branch into other crops and some of those

  • crops like berries, not only are they more complicated, they also

  • are pricier.

  • While low growing crops like leafy greens have been the

  • hallmark of vertical farms, fruits and berries have been

  • harder to develop. But that's starting to change. In 2022

  • Bowery launched a limited release pack of strawberries at

  • select New York City retailers. Strawberries grown on

  • traditional farms generally have to be shipped long distances,

  • which diminishes their taste. Strawberries also rank annually

  • at the top of the Dirty Dozen for fruits that contain the most

  • pesticides. To further enhance its berry production in 2022

  • Bowery purchased Traptic, a robotic company that uses 3d

  • cameras and AI to harvest fruit vine crops like strawberries and

  • tomatoes.

  • And the good thing for these farms is if they crack have to

  • grow those berries, they also can help drive profits for their

  • business potentially by selling higher value fruits and

  • vegetables.

  • Bowery farming got its start in 2015. In 2021, revenue doubled.

  • It works with retailers including Whole Foods and

  • Walmart and his farms outside of New York City and Baltimore. It

  • also has plans to expand. And that expansion could be good for

  • the industry as a whole if it finds consumers are willing to

  • pay for produce that tastes consistent no matter the season.

  • The possibilities are endless, right, when we're talking about

  • genetic diversity and biodiversity of seeds. Our

  • system allows us the agility and flexibility to experiment with

  • all these different types of seeds.

Indoor vertical farms have been touted for their ability to grow

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B1 US bowery vertical indoor grow grown lettuce

Why Vertical Farms Are Moving Beyond Leafy Greens

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    Kelly Lin posted on 2022/09/13
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