Grow-Tec: Expanding the Options of Vertical Farming
Controlled Environment Agriculture

The Significance of Harmonizing Technology, Botanical Science, & Local Limitations

Grow-tec (website) is making waves in the world of Indoor Vertical Farming by introducing new crops to the crop portfolio available in indoor vertical farms. This innovative company combines technology with plant science to focus on tomatoes and cucumbers, while also pioneering the intercropping of leafy greens using their patented wall-growing facility. For a long time, Indoor Vertical Farms have been criticized for only focusing on leafy greens, neglecting other more profitable crop varieties that contribute to food security. However, Grow-tec is changing this by expanding the options available in indoor vertical farming.

“I like to use the example of Tesla; a decade ago, buying [it] cost over 100K, but the capacities were minimal. It was inferior in all aspects compared to a combustion car, but now, you can buy it at an affordable price with similar capacities. Indoor Vertical Farming will experience the same,” posits Ilan Ofer, CMO & head of vertical farming at Grow-tec, emphasizing his optimism in the future of this industry.

Through meticulous analysis across various geographies, Grow-tec has ascertained that its cutting-edge model can offer a return on investment within six to eight years on commercial facilities for the combined cultivation of tomatoes, cucumbers, and leafy greens. This timeline may vary depending on geographical energy costs and the produce price.

“One common mistake is that many new companies believe that the market is the same everywhere when in reality, it may be radically different from one city to another,” commented Ilan. “We study on a case-by-case basis the various markets we are about to enter to ensure that the economics make sense and consider in our calculation the variation in energy and produce price.”

Beyond traditional farming practices, Grow-tec cultivates their crops using horizontal trellising. In this environment, certain produce, such as cucumbers and tomatoes, grow denser and yield as much as 10 times more. “No part of the stem is without vegetables, so every inch of the plant yields something,” Ofer points out, illustrating the impressive efficiency of their operation.

The operations at Grow-tec are a testament to technological advancement, with a setup that includes LED lighting, precision fertilization, controlled irrigation, and sophisticated automation. Coupled with seed selection and genetic optimization, these strategies culminate in impressively high yields and a drastic reduction in water consumption compared to conventional methods.

“For every project, I believe it is imperative to study precisely the crops that you want to grow to adapt the equipment as well as the business model.” adds Ilan, “We can do intercropping by, for instance, including leafy greens on the walls of the chambers thus leveraging every space that is available out there and reusing residual energy. This increases our output as well as the economics of our solution”

Grow-tec’s vision is gaining traction globally. Currently, in negotiations with potential customers in the Gulf region and Singapore, it’s clear that regions facing environmental challenges are looking towards indoor vertical farming as a potential solution. The need for supply chain independence, underscored by the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, has nudged nations worldwide to reassess their agricultural strategies.

In the USA, Ofer points to the potential benefits for the South West and North East regions, which face water issues or are geographically distant from key agricultural areas like Mexico. Given the current trajectory, he’s confident that initial costs associated with indoor vertical farming will reach parity with conventional agriculture and greenhouses.

Despite its nascent stage, the indoor vertical farming industry has its share of challenges, with economic viability being a significant one. However, Ofer notes, “Now that companies are focusing much more on making the unit economics make sense will help the industry progress.” Diversifying crop portfolios is another critical step, helping the industry reach a wider audience and cater to diverse nutritional needs.

In the evolving narrative of sustainable agriculture, indoor vertical farming, with pioneers like Grow-tec at the helm, is a promising chapter that can potentially transform the future of global food production.

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