This week’s Agtech news/ideas I will go briefly through vertical farming plantscrapers. You might ask what is a plantscraper? It is a skyscraper that has plants included/integrated with it. It is a part of what is known as vertical farming. I believe it is a big part future of agriculture with the biggest constraint being the amount of clean water we have. Plantscrapers have the potential use old buildings as space to make food. That is a very intriguing prospect as we attempt to push towards locally grown, organic, and more fresh.
One company in Sweden that is looking into build plant scrappers is Plantagon. It was founded in 2008 with the idea of using technology to help the food crisis in the world. They spent time doing research on vertical farming feasibility and economics and worked on a design. The have a 4-fold business plan which include, new construction, retrofitting, extension, and symbiotic system. Their aim is to use this model to help end the food crisis. They currently have a vertical farm design that is pretty intriguing. It can be seen on their site here
As I mentioned above plantsrcapers are a subset of vertical farming. Agritechture.com has a great article about vertical farmingHere.
To summarize their article: Vertical farming has huge potential to help the global food supply chain. It allows us to utilize vertical space as opposed to all horizontal. Also most of the systems you will see are, aquaponic, aeroponic, or hydroponic. That has the advantage of reducing the amount of resources to grow plants while increasing output. “Their example was a company called Plenty who can produce 4.5 million pounds of produce annually in a 100,000 sq ft space. They produce 350 times more produce/arce than traditional methods.”
The real issue that faces vertical farming currently is the amount of capital required to start and operate a vertical farm. It is currently very costly and requires a lot of energy to start a vertical farm of scale. That brings concerns of the carbon footprint of the operation, as well as high energy bills. The vertical farming equipment is expensive and so is labor. So generating enough revenue/profit becomes more difficult b/c of the price required to meet business costs.
I find vertical farming to be very interesting. I think it has its place in the global supply chain as we have less and less farmland. I also plan to utilize vertical space when I build my greenhouse. I believe vertical farming can/will help solve the food crisis in the world. Please comment below on your thoughts and questions.
Tonight I want to review an article for an AgTech startup Vestaron. Vestaron is an AgTech startup in Kalamazoo Michigan. They specialize in bioinsecticides. These are substances that are naturally occurring that control pests. They can be from plants, microorganisms, or other natural sources. Note: naturally occurring doesn’t mean safe for everyone, but in the case of Vestaron they are taking the caution to ensure their products are non-toxic to mammals(including humans), honey bees, birds and fish. This ensures that there isn’t any impact to the surrounding ecosystem past destroying the pests and makes their products environmentally friendly.
Their only current product coming to market is call Spear-T. It is a peptide that thwarts spider mites, thrips, and white flies. They are marketing it as a pest solution for greenhouses.They have some study data in this data sheet that compares to other popular pesticides in the space: Spear-T data-sheet.
Vestaron also has a good summary on their product lines that are going to come out and what they target.Vestaron Scientific information. To summarize what that 16 slide presentation states, the Spear line of products targets the neurons of insects causing insect paralysis. Essentially what it does is it blocks ion channels preventing the firing of the insect’s nerves. In their study they found their product not to have an impact on rats. They also outline other products they are working on/ studying.
Right now Vestaron is working on fund raising to help push them over the top on according this article Vestaron article. I found this to be interesting and I am interested to see what comes out of their study and if they are able to create safe pesticides that have the same impact as current chemical solutions.