What inspires AeroFarms to transform agriculture? How did you arrive at this commitment?
The world has lost a third of its arable land in the last 40 years. Seventy percent of our fresh water is going to agriculture and 70 percent of the pollution is coming from agriculture, creating dead zones in our waterways, contributing to a greater biodiversity loss. As our global population rapidly continues to grow, as the pressures of climate change continue to stress our planet, and our arable land and freshwater resources continue to decline, we have to work swiftly to reverse these trends. Since day 1, AeroFarms has been working hard to address more than just a profitable business model. We have been setting a new standard for local, environmentally and socially responsible farming at scale since 2004, and are committed to being a catalyst for positive transformational change in the agriculture industry. We are a mission-driven organization and a Certified B-Corporation focused on changing not only agriculture but also how business is done across industry. AeroFarms was formed to have a positive impact in society and feed humanity, keeping in mind all of the stakeholders from the environment to our community to our investors to our customers.
Moreover, we are not just a farm–we are a group of full-stack, world-class agriculture experts fundamentally changing the way plants are understood and food is grown. At AeroFarms, horticulture intersects with engineering, food safety, data science, and nutrition, giving us the unique capability to understand plant biology in a way that has never been understood. We utilize and have developed cutting-edge approaches to machine vision, machine learning and IoT integration, bringing agriculture into the future at a rapid pace. From last year to this year, we have grown hundreds of millions of plants alone and close to 1000 different varieties, celebrating a rich biodiversity.. More importantly we are able to harvest not just the plants but also the insights to ensure high quality through-put all year round.
There has never been a more exciting time to be part of an industry where catalytic organizations like AeroFarms are revolutionizing our food paradigm and solving some of the world’s biggest problems.This year, AeroFarms boldly evolved our mission statement beyond just enabling local production to emphasize this commitment to do a lot more with a lot less, to elevate the world’s understanding of plant biology, and to enable local food production at scale all over the world: To grow the best plants possible for the betterment of humanity.
What outcomes do you hope to reach through your precision ag research?
What we are doing at AeroFarms is unprecedented and groundbreaking in the field of agriculture. We are excited by our groundbreaking work in plant science and technology in partnership with FFAR, specifically around phenotyping — rapidly testing and determining which specific environmental stressors affect the vital phytonutrients and volatiles in plants to create the most delicious and nutritious produce. This is the next generation of food production going back to the origin at the farm, and we are excited to continue to learn about how to produce measurable changes in growth and development, plant physiology, and biochemistryas well as to identify and isolate key chemotypes to be able to understand how to optimize for taste and nutrition.
All of this work is based on a foundation of rigorous data where literally millions of data points are capturing every aspect that goes into growing from seed to harvest. Using spectral imaging and machine vision, we are looking at over 30 different variables on how to optimize our plants for taste and nutrition along with color and yield.
We are also focused on preserving biodiversity to create a broader range of nutrient-dense products that taste great and are for the betterment of humanity. Because of our controlled environment growing system, we are able to grow unique, heirloom varieties anywhere, all year round. Due to
today’s mass-scale monocropping typically found with our traditional field-farming agricultural paradigm, only a tiny fraction of leafy greens varieties are cultivated from the vast, rich set of options available.
Why is partnering with FFAR beneficial?
Partnering with FFAR has allowed us to go beyond the scope of commercial agriculture to doing groundbreaking research that will positively and measurably impact both indoor agriculture and the agriculture industry as a whole. Transcending the bounds of traditional agriculture, our work with FFAR will help develop flavorful, nutritious crops specially intended for indoor agriculture–research that has never been done before– focusing on the genetics and abiotic factors. We are grateful for the partnership and excited to continue with our Precision Indoor Plants initiative!