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A look at the vertical farming platform that uses tech to grow a variety of healthy foods
When we talk about technology, it's easy to focus on things like computers, smartphones, apps, and the growing number of smart gadgets found in our homes.
But technology is far-reaching and can influence and change traditional sectors quickly. One sector that may seem immune to the growing use of technology is the farming industry, but a quick look at what farm equipment is becoming can prove that wrong quickly (even if the transition is proving difficult for some).
One company that is looking to take on the commercial agricultural industry is Eden Green Technology, a company based out of Texas that focuses on sustainability in the food industry.
I had the chance to interview Eddy Badrina, CEO of the company, to learn a bit more about what they are doing, how they use technology, and how they envision the future of the agricultural industry.
Check it out below.
Care to introduce yourself and your role with Eden Green?
Sure. I'm Eddy Badrina, and I’m the CEO of Eden Green Technology.
In just a few sentences, what is Eden Green?
Eden Green Technology is a vertical farming platform that grows large quantities of local produce safely, sustainably, and efficiently. We use less land, energy, and water than both traditional farming and other indoor solutions.
Our greenhouses are constructed on small footprints, in urban or suburban areas, to provide stable jobs and produce non-GMO, pesticide-free produce, which goes from farm to table in as little as 48 hours, compared to the 14 days it usually takes under the traditional model.
What inspired the creation of the company?
The founders of Eden Green are brothers Jacques and Eugene van Buuren. They witnessed firsthand the effects of hunger in their native South Africa, and thereafter dedicated themselves to helping feed the world.
They came to the US to secure investment, source talent, and experiment with their technological solutions in our diverse climates. They started in Texas, with its own extreme range of environmental considerations, agricultural know-how, and business opportunities, and built from there.
What types of produce can your vertical farms grow?
Our greenhouses can grow 50+ varieties of produce, including herbs, leafy greens like spinach, kale, and arugula, and a sizable array of vegetables, plus other non-produce plants like hemp and research crops.
You call yourself a tech company, can you go into more detail on that?
Absolutely. So, our technical secret sauce consists of a few ingredients, including our patented vertical “vines,” where our produce grows, and the way we create microclimates for each individual plant with temperature-controlled air and nutrient-enriched water.
We also designed and built a proprietary mechanical, electrical, and plumbing solution specifically to automate and remotely monitor all our greenhouses. Because of that hardware and software combination, we like to think of ourselves as a technology company that happens to grow produce.
Eden Green seems extremely relevant right now with coronavirus, are you doing anything to help people and businesses affected by the virus?
We directed our R&D facility to start a unique partnership with a local business that had to pivot from supplying high-end restaurants to starting home deliveries of high-quality poultry, eggs, beef, and produce.
For every pound of our produce they deliver, we are giving one pound away to local food banks, homeless shelters, and other nonprofits. The creative problem-solving of combining how to sell our produce, help another small business grow, and feed the local underserved population all at the same time, was a really valuable experience.
More generally, the coronavirus crisis brings into focus the kinds of problems with traditional farming methods that we help directly address - easy access to local food sources, sustainability, and resiliency.
A more-widespread application of greenhouses like ours would also help defray the market effects of workforce shortages due to sickness, the personal effects of crowded, unsanitary, and otherwise-unsafe work environments, and the problems that come with relying on low-paid seasonal work.
What locations are you currently available in and do you plan on expanding?
We currently have our R&D facility in Texas, and are prepping for facilities to be built in two other countries and a number of states.
Through our Texas facility alone, we’ve partnered with local food banks and nonprofit organizations, run pilot tests with two grocery companies, and a research university, with a lot more expansion planned in the coming years.
Do you believe this is the future of farming?
We absolutely believe that this is the future of farming. Not only does our solution make market sense - because global demand for year-round access to a variety of produce is growing, and costs to meet that demand are rising, having a locally-sourced, year-round solution solves for that - it’s also a sort of good on its own.
To be clear, we believe we are reshaping farming, not replacing farmers. We have always believed this will innovate the entire industry, and will support farmers in the field to improve on their processes and best practices.
The way we grow is more sustainable, environmentally friendly, and efficient (in terms of land, water, energy costs, and chemicals) than traditional farming. It saves time, money, and waste in the transportation of the produce, and it reduces food waste and the decrease in nutritional value incurred by transit as well.
If we can offer an opportunity to develop farms into a more efficient operation that improves not just food security in underserved areas, but also food safety, then we grow our business and help farmers as well.
Anything you'd like to close with?
Without getting too much on my soapbox, I’d just like to say that we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reassess what’s really important in each of our local communities, to refocus our efforts to care for those around us, and to rethink how businesses can thrive while doing that.
I’m excited to be part of Eden Green at a moment when we can be an example of the potential of the technology itself, and the philosophy underlying it: that we can treat our food, our people, and our environment - locally and globally -with the respect they deserve, and that we can all succeed together.
I'd like to thank Eddy for taking the time to answer some of my questions.
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