Many bright minds are engaged with solving the conundrum of shrinking food supply combined with growing demand needs. Indeed, over $10.5bn of venture capital flooded into the agtech industry in the first half of 2020 (which compares favourably to the $21.6bn for all of 2019, per AgFunder, a venture capital platform). With the playing field taking in everything from farm to fork, excitement is rife in multiple areas, although e-grocers, midstream technologies and food innovation which are receiving the highest levels of current investment interest.
To give one indication of how far agtech has come, we were impressed to read that the world’s biggest rooftop greenhouse recently opened at the end of August. Based in Montreal and pictured below, it spans 15,000 square metres, or the equivalent of three football pitches. Operated by Lufa Farms (a privately owned venture), the farm will grow everything from tomatoes to eggplants. Its backers estimate that a normal weekly harvest could feed up to 20,000 families locally. Not only do they get organically grown produce (albeit at a price, since baskets will sell from ~$30), but also one with a minimal carbon footprint.'
The Québécois are not the only people to benefit from the expansion of rooftop farms. Another north American business, Gotham Greens, now has eight city centre greenhouses operational in New York, Chicago and Denver. Aero Farms is another player active in the field across the US. Other ventures are afoot in countries as diverse as Japan and Singapore, while even the citizens of Paris will get access to rooftop produce from 2022, once French Urban Nature opens its first venture.
The backers of Lufa Farms have the ambitious intention of “reinventing the food system.” Early signs are that it might be working. Beyond the satisfaction of producing (and consuming) almost truly local food, the advantage of having your farm on the roof means that you can recover a lot of energy from the bottom of the building. Lufa says that its water system is also able to collect and reuse rainwater, resulting in savings of up to 90% relative to a traditional farm. There’s more to come. Beyond further farms, the business is also experimenting with a fleet of electrified delivery trucks in order to widen further its footprint. We’re all certainly hungry for more innovation in this area.
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