Indoor vertical farming (or controlled environment agriculture) has proven many benefits over the past decade regarding the efficiency in water consumption, surface usage and the use of chemical products relative to traditional or conventional farming. Nonetheless, despite the efforts made, the energy aspect remains a talking point as it represents in some cases up to 80% of the operational expenses of these farms which, in times of soaring energy prices is unbearable.
As per the most recent report from leading advisory firm in urban agriculture, Agritecture, highlighted the need for greater transparency and accountability for claims about energy use in the vertical farming sector. Indeed, 62% of the survey respondents’ indicated that they track energy consumption, but only 28% provided a credible number.
Today we look at 5 companies that have taken proven steps to reduce energy usage or research alternative energy sources for their facilities/ solutions.
Note: This is not a ranking nor is it an exhaustive list, it is for indication purposes only and reports the most recent actions taken by companies.
CubicFarm Systems Corp (TSE: CUB)
CubicFarm reported recently the results of a study demosntrating that their solutions used up to 62% less energy than other vertical farms surveyed around the world. Patented Crop Motion Technology™ moves plants to one layer of LED grow lights, unlike typical rack and stack layouts of other vertical farms that use multiple layers of energy-intensive LEDs. Findings include:
- 17.6 kilowatt hours (“kWh”) per pound in typical vertical farms
- 8 kWh/pound in a CubicFarm System module (54% less than typical vertical farms)
- 6.67 kWh/pound in a CubicFarms FreshHub System (62% less than typical vertical farms)
Moreover, the company’s subsidiary, Hydrogreen, has entered into an agreement with Deloitte LLP to develop a carbon commercialization program designed to provide high-quality carbon credits to a fast-growing global market. HydroGreen is working with Deloitte’s world-class advisory team to further quantify the extent to which Automated Vertical Pastures™ can deliver carbon insets and offsets. Third-party standards, such as Verra, can then be used to monetize GHG emission reductions by converting them into tradeable carbon credits.
Recently, a consortium of four british companies have earmarked a series of sites between Dumbarton and Dundee for the locations of Scotland’s next generation of hectare+ scale vertical farms, powered by 100% Scottish renewables. These farms would provide locally produced fresh foods (salads and fruits) to over 60% of the Scottish population. The V-FAST consortium comprises UK Urban AgriTech (UKUAT), Light Science Technologies Ltd, Vertegrow Ltd, and RheEnergise Limited, the UK energy storage company.
Each site would host wind, solar, energy storage and vertical farming all in one place, often utilising exactly the same footprint to maximise the efficiency of land use. Furthermore, the V-FAST projects can utilise lower quality land which is not ideal for traditional farming. Renewable energy generation is already low cost, but intermittent. To solve this problem vertical farms need a long duration energy storage solution of 8-12 hours to ensure near constant low cost carbon free energy. 8-12 hours, however, is longer than batteries can economically provide.
RheEnergise’s High Density Hydro® storage system would be built to provide the necessary grid stability and reliability, utilising the abundant existing local renewable generation (which is often curtailed) across many parts of Scotland, whilst the predictable base energy demand of a vertical farm (with its controlled environment agriculture) would be provided by one or several members of UKUAT’s membership network.
Local Bounti (NYSE: LOCL)
On April 28th, the company has become the first indoor farm to publish an annual sustainability report. The report, which follows standards set forth in the Global Reporting Initiative (“GRI”) and Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (“SASB”) and aligns with the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals (“UN SDG”), contains firm environmental, social and governance (“ESG”) commitments — a first for the controlled environment agriculture (“CEA”) industry — including:
- Investing in and supporting Local Bounti employees by paying a Living Wage while providing full time, non-seasonal jobs with customary benefits
- Producing greenhouse gas (“GHG”)-neutral leafy greens by 2030
- Investing in underserved communities by committing to spend over $50 million in facilities located in Federal Opportunity Zones
- Reporting transparently, using GRI and SASB international frameworks, including full Scope 1 and 2 GHG values and actual water usage
Infarm was founded in Berlin in 2013 by Osnat Michaeli and the brothers Erez and Guy Galonska. Passionate to become self-sufficient and eat better, they were growing their own food, enjoying all the flavor and nutrients, without the chemical pesticides and transport kilometers. With the aim to share the goodness of self-grown produce with everyone, they developed a smart modular farming system that allows distribution of vertical farms throughout the urban environment, growing fresh produce in practically any available space and fulfilling practically any market demand. Today, with cutting edge R&D, patented technologies and a leading multi-disciplinary team, Infarm is growing a worldwide farming network helping cities become self-sufficient in their food production, while significantly improving the safety, quality, and environmental footprint of our food.
The company has recently received an honourable mention in the General Excellence category of the 2022 FastCompany‘s World Changing Ideas awards and were ranked first in Forward Fooding’s 2021 Foodtech 500 with an impressive improvement in their sustainability score compared to previous years’ classification. They have also taken steps into becoming a certified B corp.
For the past decade, Gotham Greens grown into becoming a leading agtech company in the US and expanded throughout the United States. Indeed, the company recently announced plans to expand nationwide by doubling the size of its greenhouse capacity from 600,000 square feet to over 1.2 million square feet in 2022. The company also announced three new sustainability commitments since becoming a certified B Corp:
- Goal 1: Reduce plastic packaging for leafy greens and herbs by 40% by 2024
- Goal 2: Achieve a reduction of 5% in our electricity use intensity by 2024 and reduce our Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emission intensity by 5% by the end of 2024
- Goal 3: Provide at least 75% of our leafy greens and herbs to partners located within 50 miles or less of our regional greenhouses.