As vertical farming becomes an important trend in the vegetable industry, Kevin Walsh, Customer Recommendations and Stewardship at Seminis®, shares what vertical farming means for the industry and how we’re helping growers like AeroFarms be more successful.
Learn more about how we’re working to meet growers’ needs through breeding in our breeder series.
Aren’t able to watch the video? Check out the transcript below.
What is vertical farming?
There’s far more pressure on even open field growers to continually grow. The land’s getting tired. There’s bigger disease pressure, so vertical farming really does give a very good environmental solution to areas that are looking to be self-sustainable. We’re going to struggle to supply enough food for the world in the next 20 years, so it’s utilizing space and it’s going upwards and it’s in existing spaces in big cities. From a logistical point of view, it’s really giving a good option.
It’s growing slowly, so we’re trying to understand exactly where the industry is going. We’re really at the head of the curve and not waiting for people to come to us. We’re going to find it.
How does vertical farming work?
I think there are several different spaces that have been bucketed under the same vertical farming. So you’ve got vertical farming that’s taken spaces of warehouses in specific areas and they’re setting up. They’ve got a specific growing unit that stacks vertically.
The commercial side of vertical farming is pretty cool, because it’s setting up the same growing system you can plug into your shed at home, and you can grow anything baby leaf. That system will allow you to continue to grow. And it’s in places that can’t grow open field vegetables because of the environment or there’s no land or no availability. These growers are setting up and building in these big factories, just utilizing old space.
Seminis® has been working with AeroFarms on the East Coast. They’re starting new, so helping them to understand how to work with seed companies. Really helping them to understand what varieties can do what in agronomic conditions, so we can match up to their systems, because in vertical farming you talk about intense light. It’s intense light and growing, so it’s growing 24 hours a day, where in open field, when it goes dark, it mostly slows down and stops growing – it depends on the temperature.
It’s a completely different growing system, so you need a different type [of plant]. We’ve been connecting AeroFarms with our Seminis® breeders to understand what they’re really looking for, and then looking for varieties, like in lettuce, that don’t bolt or don’t bolt so fast. It’s slower growing, so it gives them better opportunities to grow.
How is vertical farming affecting the industry?
I think AeroFarms are the ones that really started the evolution of vertical farming. Those guys have really done an excellent job of how they’ve marketed themselves. They really set a presence for the vertical farming industry. We see now there are a lot of companies following that with a slightly different version. In the Netherlands, we see they’re growing things on rooftops. That’s another version of vertical farming. But these guys are looking for support with the right varieties for the right conditions. So that’s something we’re trying to develop from Seminis’ perspective as well.
What does Seminis® bring to the vertical farming industry?
I think the diversity we bring with crops and the experience we have in other areas and other countries, if you take how we’re testing a variety today, we test it in multiple environments. We already have very good ground knowledge of what works in high light levels and high temperatures. And we have that experience at that local level. I think that’s why Seminis® is great for that sort of customer feedback and information. We understand very quickly what works and what doesn’t. And we have people on the floor that can really manage that account locally.