This year’s Indoor AgTech Innovation Summit is an important meeting point for the global indoor agriculture ecosystem. 

With two days dedicated to deep discussions covering the CEA landscape, energy efficiency and financial capital, five experts from CITI, Invest NYC SDG Initiative, Sundrop Farms, UNFI and WWF share the latest trends and current topics facing the sector.

FINDING CAPITAL

Adam Bergman, Global Head of AgTech Investment Banking, CITI, USA: “Once indoor farming companies grow enough to achieve profitability, a broader set of financing tools will become available. Most next-generation greenhouses and vertical farms have been financed by equity capital from venture capital, family offices, growth equity and sovereign wealth funds. However, more established companies with multiple farms operating profitably, will have access to lower cost and less- or non-dilutive financing options that include bank debt, infrastructure funds, mezzanine debt, municipal finance, private equity, and project finance.

The indoor farming sector is likely to follow a similar path that occurred with solar companies more than a decade ago. At that time, there was a shakeout in the sector. More established solar companies with profitable business models had access to lower-cost capital options, including project finance, and were able to get a competitive advantage over newer entrants that were unprofitable with less proven technology.

Ultimately, many of the next-generation solar companies that depended on higher-cost equity became uncompetitive and either went bankrupt or were sold at a low valuation. I expect to see a similar pattern happening in indoor farming during the next 24 months with a few industry winners both in high-tech greenhouse and vertical farming.”

IMPROVING ENERGY EFFICIENCY

Julia Kurnik, Senior Director of Innovation Startups, WWF, USA: “CEA brings huge benefits but continues to have a large environmental footprint through its energy use. It is great to see growers and technology providers exploring ways to be more energy efficient and source from more renewable options. If the CEA industry works with utilities to improve their own energy supply chains while also exploring how to make use of stranded or underutilized assets, it would be a win for all with lessons applicable to a wide variety of industries.”

 

Steve Marafiote, CEO, SUNDROP FARMS, AUSTRALIA: “Our growing systems allows us to integrate solar power, electricity generation, freshwater conservation, and production, climate control, and hydroponics to enable both counter-seasonal and the year-round production of premium fresh produce. This will deliver a meaningful reduction in fossil fuels and water usage through innovative use of renewable energy, desalination of sea water for irrigation and low carbon technologies.”

TRANSFORMING FOOD SECURITY

Marianna Koval, Director, INVEST NYC SDG INITIATIVE, USA: “It’s exciting to watch as indoor farming will play an increasingly important role in our complex and evolving food system. Growing pesticide-free crops, year-round, often locally, indoor farming provides greater food security and resilience in the face of supply chain disruptions and climate change.”

COMMUNICATING THE VALUE OF CEA TO RETAILERS & CONSUMERS

Dorn Wenninger, SVP Produce, UNFI, USA: “In a typical produce department, the store has around 300 fresh produce items. It’s unrealistic to rely on the retailer to ‘tell the message’ of the producer. To make it more challenging, the shopper has historically seen produce in a binary fashion: organic or conventional. CEA produce is making inroads and slowly changing consumers’ understanding, particularly in the tomato and salad categories.  Given the frequently superior eating characteristics of CEA produce, principally driven by freshness, promotional pricing, to encourage consumer trial seems to be one of the most effective means of communicating the unique characteristics to the shopper.”

 

We look forward to hearing more from our experts on their panel sessions at the summit, book your place now to join them.

  • Opening Plenary // Promoting CEA as a Critical Piece of the Food Security Puzzle
    Marianna KovalDirectorINVEST NYC SDG INITIATIVE, USA
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  • Communicating the Value of CEA to Consumers, Retailers and Restaurants
    Dorn WenningerSVP ProduceUNFI, USA
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  • Case Study Series // Innovative Solutions to the Energy Crisis
    Julia KurnikSenior Director of Innovation StartupsWWF, USA
    Steve MarafioteCEOSUNDROP FARMS, AUSTRALIA
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  • Finding Funding in a Challenging Economic Environment
    Adam BergmanGlobal Head of AgTech Investment BankingCITI, USA
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