Global industry leaders from Agrourbana, FoodVentures and LettUs Grow will join the Indoor AgTech Innovation Summit in New York on June 23-24 to discuss the unprecedented growth of the CEA landscape.
Read more insights below from Dirk Aleven CEO at FoodVentures, Cristian Sjogren, Co-Founder & CEO at Agrourbana and Ben Crowther, CTO at LettUs Grow.
How does your geographical location affect your pathway to production?
LettUs Grow: As a technology supplier we’re not particularly sensitive to any geographical factors. However, working with clients in the UK is a challenging testing ground for our technology due to the relatively high energy and labor and low produce prices in the UK currently. Demonstrating our product’s effectiveness in the UK shows huge promise for deployments around the rest of the world.
AgroUrbana: We are currently set in the perfect testing ground for vertical farming as Chile is a developing economy with a Mediterranean climate which makes traditional agriculture extremely competitive. We are proving that vertical farming can be competitive in these market conditions to then prove it competitive around the world.
What do you feel is needed from your region to help you scale at speed, and be profitable, sustainable and overall successful?
FoodVentures: It’s mainly a lack of long-term finance. A lifetime of greenhouses are long (30 years or more) but still the local investors and banks expect repayments to be done in seven years which is too optimistic. In general, we now see a problem in the inputs (energy) as well, but I believe that is a good thing. It pushes all kind of solutions to think of their energy consumption and ways to reduce it.
Do some regions offer greater potential or pain points over others?
LettUs Grow: Certainly. Farming is a cost of production challenge and there are many regions where the cost of labor and electricity is far lower than in the UK and produce prices are much higher – this provides a very different economic balance and opportunity for our customers.
FoodVentures: Absolutely. Although we manage the climate, the harsher the outside climate is the more utilities are required to manage the inside climate. Next to climate, some regions have better consumer markets than others. Consumers need to reward the fact its produced local, hence fresher and more sustainable.
Have you noticed a difference in what messages communicate with consumers across regions?
FoodVentures: We have been testing our branding materials for China and in other markets such as Kazakhstan and we noticed the difference. In China it’s about lifestyle, sustainability, and food safety. In Kazakhstan this is lesser of interest as people are more patriotic with home or local grown aspects.
For you, which regions seem the most economically viable to co-locate or build a facility? Why is this?
LettUs Grow: The Middle East, Scandinavia and Northern USA and Canada have huge potential for CEA. Their balance of labor, electricity, food prices and import reliance make it a very compelling proposition and provides the opportunity to have a large impact. However, we are extremely ambitious at LettUs Grow and are refining our products based on UK economics – this is what helps us develop the most efficient systems for the rest of the world.
AgroUrbana: Large and dense urban areas make the most sense for facility location. At AgroUrbana we are targeting cities in Latin America and by doing so we will dramatically reduce the need for water, land and trucking and provide better food with less impact to millions of people. More with less drives our work every day at AgroUrbana.
FoodVentures: In Asia there are interesting places nearby the larger cities but in the mountainous areas that are of interest. In the CIS region, we look at energy supply and sun light. Kazakhstan offers an excellent opportunity across both, and can serve as a production hub to substitute imports and for regional exports.
Meet the featured experts in-person at the Indoor AgTech Innovation Summit!
Cristian Sjogren from Agrourbana and Dirk Aleven from FoodVentures will both discuss ‘Establishing CEA Innovation Hubs and Markets Around the World’ during the Breakfast Briefing on Day 1 at 8am ET.
The LettUs Grow team will be exhibiting at the summit with Ben Crowther.