Nona Yehia, Co-Founder & CEO at Vertical Harvest is joining Indoor AgTech to discuss how buyers and growers can build strong and long-lasting relationships. 

As we get closer to the event, Nona has given us a taste of the next emerging crops, expansion plans and the biggest challenges Vertical Harvest is facing across the CEA industry. 

Nona Yehia - Vertical Harvest - Indoor AgTech Innovation SummitWhat are the next emerging crops or markets you plan to explore?
And as we expand, the Jackson farm is realigning more strongly to R&D and looking at other highly perishable produce like mushrooms and berries, especially ones with uniquely high nutrition profile. We’re also diving deeper into plants with special medicinal values. Further, Microgreens, which is one of the current staple crops, have a very exciting nutritional profile designed for high impact and we have only skimmed the surface of their potential. In addition to our Jackson’s R&D focus, each of our new farms will have a ‘chef’s playground’ where we’ll be working with each community to grow flavors and varietals that remind folks of ‘home.’ Finally, we’re lucky enough that our new investors are focused on food innovation – and we’re excited to align our growing tech to their R&D as well.

What are the biggest challenges you’re facing?
There’s no doubt CEA will be an important part of our future food systems, we’re all racing to establish our footprint, but the good news is we’re nowhere near fulfilling the total addressable market. The challenge is to grow fast and scale in ways that stay true to our values. For us that’s about our social impact, but also climate. While we’re great on water conservation, toxin reduction and arable land preservation, it also means continuing to drive down emissions through different clean energy strategies.

What does a successful roadmap to national and international expansion look like for you?
Our approach is to build local farms within the communities we hope to feed and help city and state partners meet ‘buy local’ mandates. So, we’re really building regional networks of local farms, and that means solidifying agreements with many municipalities. Thankfully most civic leaders love us for the way our Grow Well Ecosystem addresses multiple social challenges simultaneously and as core aspects of our business model. Our vision is that every city should have food production as an integral part of their civic infrastructure – this will be essential for building climate resiliency into the food supply chain

Where do you plan to be in the next 3-5 years?
Hopefully we’ll be farming in about 10 new cities in the next five years and with another 10 or so farms in the pipeline. But regardless of the number of farms, we’re beyond excited to be growing more food and more futures. Our customized-employment model for people with disabilities means we’re literally changing the trajectory of people’s lives. Where folks might currently be stuck in lower-level jobs because of perceived limitations, by focusing on ability instead of disability, we’re helping people grow into their full potential and exciting green tech careers. What could be more exciting than that?

Join Nona’s panel on ‘Buyers and Growers: Building Strong Relationships That Last’ at 3.20pm EST on June 23. 

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