Agriculture is a massive industry—and for a good reason. As the global population grows, food supplies are pressing concerns. Likewise, the environmental impact of current farming methods does not appear to be sustainable. In fact, the global footprint of the food production sector is roughly 17 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions. However, this scenario is changing as man pursues innovative vertical farming strategies. And vertical farming startups like Infarm are looking to completely disrupt the industry.
Infarm, a Berlin-based vertical farming startup, is one of several companies approaching agricultural production from new perspectives. More than 40 such companies that exist today are exploring indoor farming as an alternative to traditional agricultural methods. However, Infarm might make the most significant impact globally as it is looking to scale its vertical farming operations substantially. As a result, examining Infarm and its approach to vertical farming is worth a closer look.
INFARM — Vertical Growth for Its Vertical Farming Solutions
As a vertical farming startup, Infarm is relatively new. Founded in 2013 by Osnat Michaeli, Erez Galonska and Guy Galonska, the company is nevertheless already making an impact. It currently has over 200 in-store farms, 150 farms in distribution centers, and over 150,000 plants per month in harvest. Likewise, its vertical farming modules are already in France, Switzerland and Germany—with expansion plans into the U.K. this fall.
What’s Infarm’s approach to vertical farming? Infarm provides individual modules that grow herbs, lettuce, fruits and all types of vegetables. But rather than placing these in farming areas, Infarm places them in restaurants, grocery stores and even schools. Customers can directly “harvest” their produce as a result. This revolutionary concept, and the technology behind it, is what has enabled Infarm to acquire over $134 million in total capital funding.
Farming-As-A-Service: Sustainable Vertical Farming Innovations
Infarm is more than just vertical farming modules displayed in restaurants or grocery stores. Infarm’s vertical farming modules are each connected via the cloud to Infarm’s central control center. At the command center, each plant is monitored for its nutrient, light and water usage to ensure optimal conditions. And more importantly, Infarm applies data analytics and IoT big data to continually advance its operations. In essence, the startup eliminates several aspects of the traditional agricultural process through the use of these technologies. In other words, Infarm’s farming-as-a-service platform places the farm directly in front of the customer—offering fresh, organic, quality foods.
Bypassing the farm and using a farming-as-a-service platform offer many other advantages beyond customer engagement. Infarm reports using 95 percent less water and 75 percent less fertilizer than traditional farms. Likewise, its method eliminates 90 percent of the transportation burden of bringing foods to destinations. This case is important since nearly half of all agricultural nutrients are lost in transit. Finally, Infarm uses no pesticides at all. It’s fairly evident that this vertical farming solution offers a much more sustainable option to traditional farming.
Major Expansions in the Works for INFARM
Most recently, Infarm received an additional $100 million in venture capital and debt-financing funds. The funding will help InFarm broaden its reach into the U.K., the U.S., Asia and other parts of Europe. As a result, the startup plans to advance its growth of vertical farming locales from 50 a quarter to 350 a quarter. And through its data learning analytics and key partnerships, Infarm believes it can achieve scalability without sacrificing quality.
With its plug-in-play modules, Infarm allows businesses to easily implement their vertical farming system. Limited only by space, businesses are attracted to not only the chance to eliminate food transit costs but also Infarm’s offer of premium quality products at affordable prices. Given all these and the tremendous sustainability advantages, vertical farming may ultimately be a major disruptor in agriculture. And with companies like Infarm that leverage farming-as-a-service innovations, this disruption may take place sooner rather than later.