We sat with Urban Farms Inc. (Website, LinkedIn) CEO & Co-Founder Maximilian Knight to discuss the company’s business model and long-term goals for the industry. Urban Farms is a Colorado-based company that seeks to revolutionize vertical farming by providing robotic solutions. All images used in the article are provided and owned by Urban Farms Inc.
Robotic technology is becoming increasingly prevalent in vertical farming, offering several advantages that can help increase efficiency, precision, and scalability in agricultural operations. As a result, many companies have sought robotic solutions; one such company is Urban Farms, a Colorado-based company creating automated indoor farms from seed to packaging. We recently sat down with Maximilian Knight, the co-founder, and CEO of Urban Farms, to discuss the place robotics will have in the indoor farming industry.
Out of the many benefits that can offer robotics, one of them is increased efficiency. Robots can automate tasks such as planting, harvesting, and maintenance, leading to significant labor savings and increased efficiency in the production process. “A robotic arm can precisely and repeatedly do repetitive tasks that reduce risk of contamination and improve food safety,” said Maximilian Knight, CEO of Urban Farms. “This increases the productivity at our farms and allows us to grow the highest quality produce for our customers at affordable prices.”
Another advantage of robotics in vertical farming is improved precision. Operators can program robots to perform various tasks, such as monitoring plant growth and health, adjusting environmental conditions, and performing maintenance tasks. As a result, it allows for more precise control of the growing environment, improving crop yields and quality. In addition, robots can monitor and track the growth of individual plants, providing valuable data on factors such as plant health and nutrient uptake.
In addition to increased efficiency and precision, robots can help reduce costs associated with vertical farming operations. Robots can reduce labor costs and expenses related to crop loss or waste resources by automating tasks. As the use of robots in vertical farming becomes more widespread, the costs associated with purchasing and maintaining these systems are likely to decrease. Urban Farms is an example of that. Knight explains, “the fully automated indoor farming infrastructure that we’ve developed at Urban Farms is lower cost and automates more processes than existing systems.”
Maximilian Knight, CEO of Urban Farms, said, “Many indoor farms are already automating many of their processes, but usually they use robots that specialize in a single task quickly, whereas we develop robotics arms that are slower but multitask. By doing this, we decrease our overall capital expenditure, and despite being a bit slower, our robots still have downtime. In addition, this design approach has allowed us to build modular solutions that are fully automated.” Robots can also be designed to work around the clock, which means they can continuously monitor crop growth and the environment and make adjustments as needed. This can lead to better yield, quality, and less loss. In addition, the ability to constantly monitor and adjust the growing setting can mitigate the risks associated with unexpected changes in weather or other external factors.
“Using robots decreases the interaction between humans and plants, which subsequently decreases the risk of spreading bacteria or fungi that we may carry on us,” He adds.
On the other hand, robotics can also be seen as complex to use, given their complexity. It may require additional knowledge to operate and troubleshoot. However, Maximilian Knight stated, “We’ve designed the robots to operate autonomously. All tasks are preprogrammed, and a person with basic technical knowledge can schedule harvests for future dates.”
As the vertical and indoor farming industries continue to grow, labor shortages are becoming a significant concern for companies. To maintain total capacity, alternatives must be found to address the need for more seasoned workers and growers. Maximilian Knight states, “Labor is a critical issue that the industry must address to support the expanding vertical and indoor farming market. While energy is a significant factor, finding qualified operators for these facilities is a major challenge. We started Urban Farms to address these issues, but more importantly, to allow vertical farming to flourish and bring many benefits to humanity. Our model is focused on profitability because, without this, indoor farming cannot scale to impactful levels.”