Fourth appointment with our #FridayProject
Born in in the USA. Precisely in Newark (New Jersey).
It is the largest and most sophisticated Vertical Farm in the world. An impressive indoor farming initiative whose water consumption is 95% lower than traditional agriculture.
The vision of Aerofarms exemplifies very clearly the company’s futuristic intent
AeroFarms is on a mission to combat our global food crisis by leveraging our patented technology and farming locally. We do this by building, owning and operating indoor vertical farms that grow safe, nutritious food. All the process works in a way that is respectful to the planet and the communities in which we grow
This extraordinary project is located inside an old steel factory converted into a Farm of 21 square Km. The recovery of a disused building is perfectly in line with the sustainability intentions promoted by the protagonists of the sector.
To better understand what we are going to tell you, enjoy this analysis of CBS News, in one of the rare visits granted to the press inside the Aerofarms factory. Enjoy!
The cultivation technique is the Aeroponic one, where the plants are artificially sustained and they receive nourishment through a nebulization systems that directly invest the root system of the crop.
All the cultivation is then subjected to a rigorous data collection that facilitates these modern farmers the understanding of the optimal conditions for growth.
Produce vegetables of the highest quality, saving water and soil, thus combating an imminent food crisis.
Farm’s goal is not just to produce over two million tons of vegetables a year. AeroFarms is committed to being a pioneer of a clean and sustainable food production.
According to the founder of AeroFarms, David Rosenberg, innovation is urgent and necessary to feed the world’s population and he considers urban agriculture as part of the solution.
We are building this company to be immediately impactful. Not just to build a couple of indoor farms, but to change the world
But how does this technological cultivation work?
There are no seasons, night or day inside the building. Light, air humidity and temperature are all strictly controlled. As soon as a harvest is made, another immediately begins.
Long rows of LED tubes provide light with color and wavelength ideal for the growth the plants. Instead of the soil, the plants are grown on a panel made of recycled materials. Their roots are nebulized with a solution composed of water and completely natural nutrients.
The company claims that their method outperforms common soil cultivation techniques (aquaponics and hydroponics), without losing the quality of the product. On the other hand, the same NASA astronauts use this system to cultivate on the International Space Station.
To ensure that plants have everything they need, the company collects data for each plant to develop growth-friendly algorithms. Rosemberg states:
We have developed software that captures images of leaves to understand height, width, length, curvature, colour, stains and stem-tear
The long lines of so-called growing towers are similar to computers that monitor the whole process with sophisticated sensors.
Explains the co-founder Marc Oshima:
We think of ourselves as those who “whisper to vegetables”, listening and observing all we can to optimize our facilities. Our approach is leading the way, combining biology, engineering and data science
Photo Credits: AeroFarms.com
Sustainability and Km zero
To power the vertical farm, AeroFarms companies largely exploit renewable sources such as solar energy. However, what helps them to decrease the so-called environmental footprint is the elimination of the heavy transport costs and emissions. These, in fact, are distributed only to local activities, thus acquiring the characterization of zero km.
Staying local is part of the philosophy
So much so that they have also refused important requests for exports at national level: simply would go against their vision.
Crops are sold at a margin similar to locally grown organic food. The problem, as happens in Italy, concerns the fact that it is not yet possible everywhere to obtain these cultivation methods the organic certification.
It is almost paradoxical considering that even the wholesalers consider them already qualitatively superior to the organic.
The system, in fact, does not use any type of herbicide, pesticide or fungicide, thus reducing damage on product and environment.
I believe we will have an increasingly significant impact on the fruit and vegetable market. The future will be very different, thanks in large part to the data
AEROFARMS @Seeds & Chips 2017
We have met a couple of guys who have been employed in this extraordinary reality. In New York at NyAgTechWeek 17 and during the Milan fair Seeds & Chips 2017, where we were able to interview Alina Zolotarova, Aerofarm’s marketing manager. Enjoy the interview!