Verde Compacto, a Mexican start-up, producer of container farms and indoor farming growing technologies, has seen significant demand for their growing systems during the pandemic.
"COVID is driving this market forward because people want to know what is behind their food and their diets. Logistic chains in countries like South Korea and Arab countries are really dependent on imports. They are trying to implement urban technologies to strengthen their supply chains. As we’re focusing on growing systems, we are trying to turn this into reality. We are growing food in a more sustainable way where everyone can benefit from it”, Juan Gabriel Succar, Co-Founder and CCO of Verde Compacto says.
The company has an R&D container farm, Huvster, with several labs and small scale systems. The company sells some of its crops locally to better understand the urban business model, as Verde Compacto is educating the future indoor growers.
The Huvster growing container
Succar continues: “We are providing the knowledge to any grower that wants to have an urban farm and we are helping them throughout the process by constructing a farm to their needs.” The company does not only build container farms, which is their standard model but also provides custom made projects such as warehouses or buildings. Or on a smaller scale like supermarkets and restaurants. “We provide the knowledge to install a farm at any size”.
Decreasing LED use
Verde Compacto is looking to improve the electricity use for its growing solutions. “We are developing a sustainable technology that uses 75% less LED lighting, which is part of a sustainable R&D project. The tests are still running but they have delivered positive results. In the end, our technology used for indoor farms allows us to rotate the lamps. Rather than using four lamps at one spot, Verde Compacto can use one light that is constantly rotating. That's why we can make such a big impact on light usage”, Succar affirms.
Lack of quality and water
“Every business model and location has different benefits. As we are one of the largest agricultural countries in the world, we can offer excellent fresh produce quality. The sad story is that all the good fruits and vegetables are exported, thus there is a lack of quality products here in Mexico”, Succar says.
Succar says that Verde Compacto’s technology can build a profitable business model to deliver excellent quality and healthy food to the Mexican society. He notes that the central Mexican region sees a big challenge: a large water shortage. “With our solution, companies still see an opportunity to grow food and maintain their quality by using fewer resources”, Succar notes.
“We always try to give the best options possible regarding our client’s budget, business model, and capabilities. Verde Compacto is cooperating with solar panels to give access to clients for installing these solutions. “Renewable energy, in the end, really depends on the client. Our goal is to make vertical farming as sustainable as we can”, Succar states. At the end of October this year the company will install the first urban farm in Salamanca, Mexico which will be run on 100% solar energy.
Succar: “In Mexico, we provide our produce at a lower price level than supermarkets. This is done on purpose, to get people to know about vertical farming. Sometimes we are on the same price level.”
Olivier Kappetein, EU representative at Verde Compacto notes: “We have a financial stimulator and we found out that we can bring product prices down. Consumers would pay less compared to supermarket prices as they are unbelievably high. In the United Arab Emirates, locally grown products are unfindable. An iceberg lettuce costs around €7.60 (9 USD) or more. We could get that price down by at least 350% and still make a profit if we were to sell our produce there. We are aiming to sell high-quality food and that’s what they are looking for.”
Pre- and post COVID story
Verde Compacto has a pre- COVID story and a post-COVID story regarding any company expansions. The pre-COVID story was to expand to all Latin American countries, as a priority. They started several alliances and promoted the Verde Compacto technology in Latin America. However, the economy in Latin America was really affected during the pandemic.
“Thus, countries depending on imports saw a great opportunity in our technology for constant production. We didn’t get behind on the expansion actually. Right now, we are working with associations to open different commercial offices in several countries in Latin America. We will be expanding there at the beginning of next year. We are also exploring different options in different parts of the world, expanding globally. One of the regions is Northern Europe because we saw the need for farming technology in those countries. Especially in Luxemburg, where there’s limited fresh produce available.
“The most common problem in vertical farming is the unawareness of the consumer”, Kappetein adds. “They don’t know what it has to offer. It’s still an investment that needs to be made. There is still a greater focus on organic produce as they are aware of the great benefits that come along.”
The Verde Compacto team
Verde Compacto has been developing its own R&D department, generating knowledge that is also used for new product lines. Succar continues: “We are developing indoor farming systems that are not limited to leafy greens and herbs, but also for forage e.g.. Forage is eaten by grazing cattle mostly. With our hydro system, we can feed cows e.g. with using fewer resources in a more profitable way. The meat and milk industry is impacting the ecosystem significantly. Implementing this technology will help us to make this type of agriculture more sustainable.” The company is also exploring the opportunities of launching indoor strawberries, with the greatest focus on Europe.
For more information:
Juan Gabriel Succar, Co-founder and CCO
Olivier Kappetein, EU representative
Phone: +316 14 62 13 10.