“By 2050, the world’s population will be large enough that we will need 50% more food, and while technology has served us well so far in agriculture, we are starting to hit our limits on being able to meet the increases in food demand,” Roger Buelow, the chief technology offer at AeroFarms told attendees last week at the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Food Forward Summit in Washington, DC.
He explained that drought in places that historically have “been fantastic for us in terms of growing food is now limiting our ability to feed the population,” and industrial farming techniques that “for so long served us well,” are now taking a toll on soil health – causing the loss of upwards of 40% of aerable land.
Of the land that is still viable, concerns are increasing about leafy greens and other vegetables pulling heavy metals out of the earth where the soil is contaminated, he said.
A modern solution
AeroFarms addresses all of these concerns with vertical aeroponic farming – a technique that uses very little water and no soil to grow plants – rather it sprays a mist of nutrients on the roots in controlled environments, Buelow said.
“At AeroFarms, we are a technology company and a farm combined. So, our team includes plant scientists, growers and engineers who all work in concert and all sit at the same tables as we are revolutionizing this piece,” he said.
He noted that AerorFarms uses military-grade technology to map all of its plants and measure the conditions under which to deliver the best tasting product and high yields.
“The results are we are able to grow with much less water and we don’t use any pesticides. We are far more productive per square foot compared to farms that have limited seasons or crops,” he said.
Improved quality and shelf life
In addition, the products are farmed close to urban settings, which means they spend less time in transit from where they are grown to where they are sold – increasing their shelf life and reducing the risk of food waste due to spoilage, he said.
Likewise, he said, “the flavor and quality are off the charts. … Because of the way we control the environment, we can optimize these flavors. So, if you think of the best arugula you have had in your life, at AeroFarms we can match the environmental setting that the best arugula you tasted was grown under and the offer that 24/7, 365 days a year.”
The company currently offers three mixed greens and three standalone greens, all packaged in 4.5 ounce peelable, resealable containers. But, because of how the produce is grown, if consumer demands change, the company can easily pivot and offer retailers other options within weeks.
Looking forward, AeroFarms plans to partner with different players across industries to expand production and ensure that consumers have easy access to nutritious produce so that they can lead healthier lives, he said.