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Inside Larry Ellison's futuristic indoor farming company on Hawai

Sensei Ag is an agriculture-tech firm bent on changing the way food is grown worldwide. The company's mission is to feed the world by making produce more nutrient-rich and accessible and lowering the barrier to entry for vertical or greenhouse farming. Sensei Ag is the brainchild of Ellison and Dr. David Agus, a cancer physician and professor at the University of Southern California. 

Ellison is the cofounder of cloud-computing firm Oracle. The 76-year-old billionaire, who announced last year that he moved to Lanai full time during the pandemic, is known for being an outspoken advocate for health and wellness. Ellison and late Apple CEO Steve Jobs were close friends for 25 years, and often spent time hiking together near their neighboring homes in Woodside, California, prior to Jobs' death from pancreatic cancer in 2011.

Agus, 57, is a physician who treats patients with advanced forms of cancer and leads the USC cancer institute funded by Ellison. Agus and Ellison became close friends while Agus was treating Jobs' cancer.

In addition to focusing on sustainability, Sensei employs a team of plant scientists who are working on maximizing the nutrients in the crops Sensei grows. 

What Sensei Ag offers is the "whole franchise package." That includes helping a farmer identify the right indoor growing form factor for their farm, whether that's a glass greenhouse or an indoor farm; setting up a "cold chain," or refrigerated supply chain; and locking in transportation and logistics.

There's also a data component to what Sensei Ag is offering to farmers. Sensei tracks factors like crop selection and what type of light a grower uses, then feeds that information into a dataset to help inform future Sensei partners. 

Sensei had its first harvest in August 2020, and by December, its produce was sold on every Hawaiian island. The food is packed on Lanai, then taken by barge to central Honolulu — from there, it's distributed to the other islands.

Food that's grown at Sensei Farms is distributed at the Nobu restaurant located inside the Sensei resort nearby, with the aim of measuring the effect the food has on people who visit the Sensei Wellness program.

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