AmplifiedAg is a company specializing in Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA), offering a comprehensive technology platform and utilizing indoor farming practices. They provide enterprise-scale container farms and an integrated software and hardware platform for various entities looking for modern food solutions. AmplifiedAg operates the largest hydroponic container farm in the US under their brand Vertical Roots and aims to grow the indoor agriculture industry through innovation, experience, and partnership. We recently sat down with Michael Koziol, Chief Strategy Officer & CMO, and David Flynn, Vice President of Business Development of AmplifiedAg, to talk about shipping container farming and its role in Controlled Environment Agriculture.
AmplifiedAg dedicated significant time and effort to researching and assessing various farm formats when creating its technology platform. Their priorities were to achieve scalability, the flexibility of farm locations and types of crops produced, risk mitigation against impact from pathogens, and efficiency in terms of Capital Expenditure (CAPEX) and implementation time. Ultimately, they concluded that a container model met these essential requirements. “Over the years, we’ve engineered and deployed over 200 container farms and have been able to prove these benefits. In terms of scalability–while other CEA formats have to choose a model that is too big or too small–we can start with a meaningful and manageable production environment and scale on demand.” Mentioned Michael Koziol.
AmplifiedAg has deployed its containers across the United States, ranging from the humid Southeast to frigid remote Alaska. In the unlikely event of a pathogen outbreak, like Pythium, the loss would only affect 1-2 containers compared to the entirety of a greenhouse or warehouse harvest. Furthermore, the cost of building one of their farms is 30-40% less than that of a warehouse or modern greenhouse. Regarding people’s hesitance towards container farming, Michael stated: “I do want to point out that there are a lot of misconceptions about containers out there. Mostly they don’t scale, require too much labor, or are good for hobbyists but not an enterprise option. While that may be true for some, we’ve disproven these beliefs and demonstrated how competitive our solution is, how much it scales, and how it can support enterprise-level production compared to other container offers and other indoor farming formats.”
Indoor farming can technically grow any crop, but not all are practical. Factors like efficiency, market need, consumer demand, and unit economics must be considered when choosing the right produce. Leafy greens and herbs are the primary indoor crops because they are highly productive and meet a crucial need in the market that is further exacerbated by climate and supply chain challenges. Consumers are seeking out CEA-grown lettuce as a clean and healthy option. “Our format and farms successfully grow and harvest mature leafy greens with robust yields. But we can’t stop here, and we’re not stopping here. AmplifiedAg has an active and robust R&D program to develop and prove other valuable crop types. In addition to the dozen or so lettuce varieties where we are very successful, we have active efforts underway to grow crops like strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, squash, melons, and a host of other crop types. We’re even growing loblolly and longleaf pines.” Stated Michael. “One thing we’re very proud of is that our technology was selected by the USDA Agricultural Research Services to power their CEA Center of Excellence, where they are conducting numerous streams of research, including horticulture and crop R&D.”
AmplifiedAg uses Reefer shipping containers based on their resilient design, ability to repurpose them into growing environments without adding more steel, and precise environmental control. “The container farm method is the only indoor format that can run the environmental at an exact set point, specifically with air temperature, humidity, and flow, to optimize yields with precision. Outdoor climate influences the temperature of a greenhouse too much, so you can only regulate in a range of 10 degrees or greater, and it is difficult to manage a consistent airflow rate and temperature of a large-scale warehouse,” said David Flynn, Vice President of Business Development.
Container farms are unique in that they are highly mobile compared to a warehouse or multi-acre greenhouse. The benefit of mobility is the ability to deploy the appropriate number of containers in the ideal configuration at the necessary location. This opens up the possibility of localized food production where it will be distributed. “We envision local, optimized farms integrated into DC infrastructure and supply chains, rather than a single large-scale farm requiring distribution to other centers,” Mentioned Michael. “We’re collaborating with the United States Marine Corps Miramar Food Security Living Lab Enhance on the mobility and deployability of modular food systems that answer disaster relief to austere locations across the globe.”
Regulatory requirements for using shipping containers for agriculture vary from state to state in the U.S., and exemptions for building and construction are inconsistent. “Our tradespeople and engineers have constructed container farms that comply with stringent building code, electrical, mechanical, plumbing, and safety regulations. At AmplifiedAg, we offer a list of necessary items to emerging operators to help them create a business plan to obtain proper permitting and provide design engineering and consultation services to streamline the planning process,” added David. Though the authorization process can take several months, the rapid deployment of container farms allows farmers to be operational within 90 days once all site planning and approval are complete.
The mission of AmplifiedAg is to modernize and localize agriculture for farmers and communities across the globe. It is what is needed for global food production, “We need massive amounts of new ag infrastructure in the United States and other parts of the world and a rebuilt supply chain that increases food production closer to the point of distribution,” expressed David. Container farming enabled by AmplifiedAg technology can significantly contribute to localizing and diversifying food supplies by expanding access to CEA technology. The future of container farming aligns with the growth of CEA as a response to the current environmental challenges worldwide and their impact on food supply.
Image provided by AmplifiedAg