What goes up must come gown
Added on 27 June 2023
In Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, the author suggests that “in the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.” The CEA industry, especially vertical farms, is in chaos, creating a fantastic opportunity to learn from past failures, set realistic expectations, and develop new business models with a laser focus. This article answers the following questions:
- Why has a public opinion/investor interest soured on vertical farming?
- What kind of CEA company are you?
- What is a sustainable business model?
- What are possible sources of capital to fund CEA startups?
As a pioneer in CEA, with over a decade of experience in the vertical farm industry as an investor, technology innovator, farm builder, and operator, I have cuts and bruises from learning what doesn’t work. Constantly searching for better ways to make vertical farms more efficient and profitable, this article was written to share my candid perspective on what needs to change to make the industry viable.
Controlled Environment Agriculture is the science of growing crops in a protective indoor environment to extend the growing season and increase crop quality and yield. Two major cultivation formats are used to grow crops indoors – a greenhouse or a vertical farm. Various cultivation methods are used to grow crops, with hydroponics being the most prevalent, as shown in the illustration below.
Over the last few years, vertical farms and greenhouses have been lumped together when talking about CEA since they are both methods of indoor growing. In practice, each has a different business cycle and is best at growing different crops. This article primarily focuses on vertical farms.
Vertical farming, like any emerging industry, has certain perceptions associated with it. Some are valid concerns; others are unrealistic expectations from false promotions or media hype. The recent failure, bankruptcies, or downsizing of several well-capitalized vertical farm companies, such as Aerofarms, Agricool, Fifth Season, InFarm, Iron OX, and Kalera… has tainted the perception of the CEA industry for both investors and the public.
Image provided by CEA Technology