- Production Manager
- Assistant Professor - Controlled Environments Entomologist
- Technical Development Specialist | Horticulture | France
- Director of Business Development | Middle East | Agtech
- Farm/Production Manager; Berlin (m/w/d)
- Trader Asian Market
- Avocado Growing Manager - Kenya
- Operations Accountant
- Sales Manager for Nordic countries (H/F)
- Senior Breeder
Top 5 -yesterday
- Coal and pink tomatoes: the challenges for Polish growers
- Healthy seeds, and good germination with Plasma Activated Water seed treatment
- J. Huete International builds high-tech greenhouse for seed research in South America
- Tropicalia Greenhouse in Northern France blends perfectly with surroundings
- NZ: Return of the watermelon
Top 5 -last week
Top 5 -last month
- Zambia: "We produce 5,000 units of lettuce per week, per tunnel, year-round"
- UK growers stop planting and put nurseries on sale amidst energy crisis and labor shortage
- Passive solar greenhouses: How Ladakh farmers are harvesting crops in winter
- "High-tech farmer AppHarvest is running out of money"
- German family company switches from tomato cultivation to hydroponic lettuce
5 profitable urban farming questions with Metropolis Farms
1. Metropolis Farms has become a leader in the Philadelphia vertical farming scene. How did the farm come about?
Six years ago, I was working as the president of a merchant bank on Wall Street. Two very prominent Philadelphians came to our firm for a 25 million dollar investment to start an indoor vertical farm. After an enormous amount of due diligence I realized none of the existing farms were actually economically viable. They only thing they could grow was baby lettuce (basically crunchy water). There technical and scientific claims were a joke, and their financial projections had more in common with a game of three card monte then tier one financials. But the idea kept me up at night because economically sustainable indoor farms could not only produce food, medicine and energy, but would also create explosive local economies. If I could help build this new potential industry, cities would generate large amounts of green collar jobs to supply the existing demand while chase out the poverty and crush food deserts as a collateral consequence. It was on my mind constantly until one day I left Wall St to work on this problem myself. I made a giant list of everything that was wrong. I self-funded the research and dove in. It was a lot of work and a lot of what I call failing forward. We started on the “Mark1” about 5 years ago and here we are today with a solid commercial system at “Mark26”.
2. At Metropolis Farms, you take a ‘low tech, low cost’ approach to vertical farming. What’s the thinking behind that?
First off, we are definitely not low tech. Our systems are actually among the most sophisticated in the industry. The difference is that they are designed to go up rapidly, and be operated and maintained simply with minimal training by people with high school educations instead of folks with PhDs and Master Degrees. We removed the over engineered complexity and excessive costs, not the technology. For indoor farming to truly become an industry, we need the technology to be accessible to everyone that wants grow, that means community groups and non-profits, not rich white men and cannabis farmers. We call it democratizing the technology. It has to cost less to build, grow more in less space, and it absolutely has to grow more than just baby lettuce and microgreens… We need to grow substantial nutrient dense foods to be taken seriously. Our mission is to make it possible for everyone that wants to farm to have access. That’s how we build the future.
3. You recently presented to Congress on urban agriculture. What did you learn from that experience?
While it was a positive experience, I learned that we as an emerging industry really need to step up our game. Right now, the organic farming lobby is trying to do everything it can to stop indoor farming from obtain organic status. In addition, the USDA’s current agriculture bill excludes Urban and Indoor farms from getting the same USDA funding that rural communities get. This is clearly a form of discriminatory redlining. Last year I was offered fifty million in USDA B&I funding, but only if I left the city for a rural community, because USDA B&I funding regulations actually excludes cities from funding. So I founded the National Urban Farmers Association and I am fighting to change the next agriculture bill so that city farmers have equal access to money that rural farmers enjoy. We aren’t asking for a handout, just equal access. Today with almost zero funding cities like Philadelphia only have about 8 acres of urban farming. But back in 1944 city farms then called victory gardens produced over 40% of all the fresh fruits and vegetables in the United States. The difference is that back then urban farmers had access to the same funding that rural farms had. Now Urban farmers get nothing. This needs to change, and we as an industry need to stand up and change it.
4. What new tech developments in vertical farming are you most excited about implementing in your farm?
We are in final trials on a new lighting technology that reduces our cost of full spectrum lighting by about 25% (and no it’s not an LED). It also reduces the cost of direct energy use by a little over 30% and indirectly removes about 2,000 BTU’s per light for a massive savings on BTU management. Considering we already use 40% less energy than other vertical farms, this is a huge reduction. This new technology is incredibly disruptive to existing technologies and everyone’s going to want it, except of course the people making the current equipment in China, Taiwan and Japan. We plan on creating even more American green collar jobs by manufacture them at our Philadelphia factory. If all goes well, I’m actually considering showing it at the conference.
5. If you were starting out and had $1,000 to spend on an indoor farm and free space in your Mom’s basement, what farm equipment would you buy?
For either food or Cannabis, I would buy two ceramic lights and mount them in a reflective hood. Then I would add a light mover with a pair of hangers mounted on a 4 ft. piece of super strut to get better coverage and yield. Philips makes a great bulb for about $100.00 per bulb with a hood and digital ballasts that’s around $500.00. A light mover and strut should run less than $200.00. Then I would use “Roots Organic Original Soil” brand and some plane old plastic pots and saucer. Plus a good dry fertilizer for a top feed. I would recommend one of the “Down to Earths” brand dry fertilizer…they are excellent. Then get to work. This rig will grow flowing plants year round, but would be quite effective on leafy greens as well. Don’t let the low wattage fool you, these lights are powerful and full spectrum so don’t go super close to the canopy or you are going to burn your plants.
Source: Indoor Ag-Con
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Other news in this sector:
- 2021-10-26 Singapore: Renewed library now features hydroponics room
- 2021-10-21 Teens for Food Justice program awarded 300k by USDA for hydroponic expansion
- 2021-10-20 Collaboration on 700 m2 pilot farm in China
- 2021-10-20 Tackling climate issues with low-resource consuming growing towers
- 2021-10-19 ‘It’s not as carbon-hungry’: UK’s largest sunlit vertical farm begins harvest
- 2021-10-19 Unmanned vertical farm in China: is this what the future looks like?
- 2021-10-15 "We can focus more on quality and how the product satisfies consumer needs”
- 2021-10-15 UK grower trials aeroponic propagation system
- 2021-10-13 Irish supermarket to sell hydroponic microgreens
- 2021-10-08 China: Why the growth cycle of rice can be split in half
- 2021-10-01 Todd P. Hanna announced as new COO
- 2021-09-22 This "glass tree" vertical farm could solve urban food deserts
- 2021-09-16 Chinese scientists grow rice that yields twice faster in hydroponic experiment
- 2021-09-02 Building facilities across Canada, as well as in Greater London and Copenhagen
- 2021-09-01 US (PA): Mobile lab brings aquaponics closer to society
- 2021-08-26 Fresh herbs from halls and bunkers
- 2021-08-26 "The base of our technology is R&D in product development"
- 2021-08-16 "We reduced the cost of cooling by just cooling the plant roots”
- 2021-07-08 Danish retail is committed to vertical crop products
- 2021-07-08 "Crops from the vertical farm have more flavor and a longer shelf life"