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Ep 120: Aerofarms – Vertical Farming, Elevated Flavor

Vertical farming is a super interesting subject within Ag. I really do think it’s going to be the future of agriculture in cities across the world, especially in larger metropolitan areas. If you live around New York City, you might be familiar with our guest today is Tim O’Brien from Aerofarms. Aerofarms grows high-quality greens using vertical farming technology. Tim and I chat about the start of Aerofarms, the process of opening new operations, and how they are working with a few companies on growing cacao using this technology.

Check them out at the links below:

AeroFarms Website

Florida Cattle Ranchers on Facebook

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Show Notes

  • Start of AeroFarms
  • How does this technology work?
  • Plans for new Vertical Farm –
  • Can this help reduce carbon emissions from food transport?
  • What sets AeroFarms apart from other indoor farming systems?
  • What foods can this work for and what foods can it be applied for in the future?
  • Could tech like this work in space or other planets?
  • What does the future look like for AeroFarms?
  • What has been the biggest struggle growing the company?

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Transcript

There might be a few typos, but you’ll get the gist!  

Trevor:

Hello, and welcome to the farm traveler podcast. I’m your host Trevor Williams. Hope you’re doing great city pub and I have had the house to ourselves this past week, Allie and her mom and her sister Molly. They have actually been on a once in a lifetime trip to Greece. You know, the beautiful country of Greece. They’ve been to Athens, they’ve been to San Tareen. They’ve been having a ton of fun. And while they’ve been doing that Satie and I have been at the house, chillin, I’ve taken her to pet smart gotten her a bunch of treats been to Home Depot at least 12 times. And I’ve been catching up on some video games and movies, which I mean, you know, what you do? It’s been great. Um, so yeah, I I’m excited for today’s episode is with another vertical farming company. This one is called arrow farms. And they are around the New York area. So we’re chatting with Tim O’Brien from arrow farms. And we’re going to talk about how arrow farms is different, what their vertical farming looks like. And really how this new technology can help reduce carbon emissions. What sets us apart from other indoor farming systems in Canada, the future, they’re actually I believe Tim said that they’re going public, in terms of like, you know, investing very soon. And I think they’re also opening up another location. And I think I thought this was awesome. This was just such a cool timing. Because, you know, we went to LA aloha a few weeks ago. And we did that whole tour, which you know, if you haven’t already, go to YouTube and check out our farm tour, I’ll link that in the description, where we toured cacau and full circle aerofarms is actually working on how to grow cacau plants in a vertical farming environment. And so I think that’s super cool. nobody’s really done it before. And so they’re kind of at the forefront of that. So you never know, maybe in a few years, we can go towards a vertical farm that is growing cow aka chocolate, which I think is phenomenal. So yeah, this is a great interview with Tim we chat a lot about the future of agriculture, the future of vertical farming and stuff like this. I really think that this stuff is going to be the future I mean, if you’re in a larger area, like in New York or like a Philadelphia this would be a great way you can provide fresh local produce in terms of green greens and all that good stuff and actually if you’re listening and you’re from New York maybe you’re in Philadelphia wherever you can actually find their produce at Amazon Fresh which I did I didn’t know that was a thing. Also Whole Foods Walmart and a couple others like a shop right and stuff like that. And they’ve got a bunch of really cool greens you can buy like super mix some looking at their stuff right now they’ve got a spicy mix of microgreens which sounds delicious you know, they’ve got kale, or rainbow mixed or watercress and all that good stuff. If you want to check them out. Go to arrow farms calm that’s just arrow A e r o farms calm. So yeah, I hope you enjoy this episode. This was a blast talking with Tim and learning more and more about another fascinating vertical farm business. But arrow farms as Tim is going to explain is a little bit different. So hope you enjoyed it. And thanks so much for listening. All right, well, Tim Brian from aerofarms. How are you doing?

Tim:

I’m doing well. Thanks, Trevor, how about you doing? Well,

Trevor:

I am super excited to chat with you, as I was telling you just a minute ago, I’m a big fan of hydroponics and the whole future of urban ag. And so aerofarms does that. And so I’m super excited to chat with you about it. But before we dive in to aerofarms, kind of tell us a little bit about yourself kind of a background and how you got started with arrow. Sure,

Tim:

So I I’m a New Jersey native born and raised in New Jersey, very proud of the Garden State and like the family farms in my area where I grew up along the Delaware River in the Delaware River Valley. Several of those family farms face similar situations, and one in particular, faced the notion that their children did not the next generation did not want to take on the farm. And so a lot of those family farms that face that same consequence, ended up selling to developers and kind of suffered the urban sprawl. But one family farmer, my community, the Snyder family, they had the foresight to take their farm and bequeath it to Rutgers University, which in New Jersey is our land grant university where the Agricultural College Cooke colleges, and they bequeath it to them, and they created it into a Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Center, which still is in existence today. This was back in 1987, that this event happened. But I say all that Trevor because I am part of a whole group of people, youngsters at the time that got high school summer jobs, college summer jobs, working at the Snyder Research and Extension Farm in pittstown, New Jersey, and did not come from an agricultural background. But after experiencing that facility and working there, particularly for me, I worked there for six summers in a row between high school and my undergraduate in college, it absolutely sparked an interest in sustainable food production, alternative ways to produce food. And it charted me on a course to get a bachelor’s degree in plant Soil Sciences from the University of Delaware. And where I currently live here in the Pacific Northwest, I came out in 1995 to get my master’s degree in sustainable ag from Oregon State University. And what I thought was going to be two years out here in the northwest before it came back to New Jersey turned into 25 years later, and a whole story that career. So for me and aerofarms This is a bit of a coming home. scenario for me coming back to New Jersey, working with aerofarms to work in this very interesting and innovative area of Ag biotech these days.

Trevor:

That’s awesome. Yeah, I think most people outside of Ag have no clue that technology like this is I mean, not only out there, but also it’s super popular. And I know over the past like decade or so it’s gotten even more popular. Like there’s companies like you guys aerofarms we had another company from Wyoming called vertical farms on and so it seems like indoor hydroponics and growing produce this way is really catching on. So going off of that kind of tell us if you can a little bit about kind of the background of aerofarms and how you guys started?

Tim:

Yeah, aerofarms is a fascinating business because its its original founder, a gentleman named Dr. Ed Harwood, who was a longtime professor at Cornell University in Ithaca. Unfortunately, Ed did pass away, just recently, and so we all at aerofarms are still grieving his loss and he’s left a void in the in our in our company, but we’re at a very exciting inflection point four in the history of the company. And we know that ed is watching down with that beaming smile of his as he’s finally seeing the the fruits of his labor from all those years ago but at Harwood started our company in his garage literally, and which is the classic American invention story, right. And he was building tabletop versions of his indoor vertical farm chamber to where it got large, large enough to where he took over his entire dining room and he turned that into a grow room if you will, of his endurable farm and he was trying to scale from there and he was you know, having different people build them in their back sheds and whatnot and And long story short Trevor he he finally went out and said I’m gonna go raise some money and kind of try and make a go of this with this business and in the great story that I’d used to tell was that the the original investors would, would ask him Well, well, who’s your chief grower He would raise his hand say I am and they’d say, well, who’s your chief financial officer and he raised his hand say Aye. And, you know, for every every task, he was raising his hand, and they all realized real quick, like, oh, boy, we got to get a team in and around and, and scale this thing. And so that’s, you know, entered David Rosenberg and Mark Oshima, who are carrying the torch forward in Ed’s absence here as we move forward. But they were in a different kind of early stage, indoor vertical farm business. And they met up with Ed saw the story saw the opportunity, and as they say, the rest is history. And they’ve been carrying the torch forward. And aerofarms has been around since 2004, as a more formal company. But it’s been tinkering that for for many years beyond that.

Trevor:

Okay, that’s pretty cool. So now assume that I don’t know how hydroponics and this technology work. I know there’s some people listening that might not know. So how exactly would you explain that to somebody that doesn’t really know how this process works?

Unknown Speaker 11:07

Yeah, so indoor vertical farming is a is a discipline within what’s known in our industry is controlled environment AG, controlled environment, agriculture. And so indoor vertical farming is essentially, fully controlled environments. So we’re not limited by the sunlight, we’re not limited by seasons are not limited by soils from that standpoint. And so we fully control all aspects of the growth of our plants, we have indoor lighting, we have a nutrient solution that we either use in a bath for the roots of the plants, or we can mist the roots of the plants in an aeroponic method, where we’re just spraying a very fine mist on the roots and keeping them moist all the time. So they, they think they’re in a perfectly moist soil bed. We we control all of the lighting, spectrum intensity photo periods, so we can design and tailor a lighting regime that the plant actually needs to be perfect. And contrary to popular belief, the sunlight that that grows our plants outside, there’s a lot of wasted spectra, there’s a lot of wasted energy there for horticultural agricultural crops. As a rule, you know, we can then prescribe our light regime to maximize photosynthesis and sugar production to produce whatever fruit or or tuber we’re trying to create from a horticultural value perspective. And so it’s a very detail oriented, prescriptive level of farming that is perfectly suited for areas that may not be suitable in the outdoor environment to grow certain types of crops. And it helps reduce the logistics or transportation associated with getting fresh, nutritious produce to large urban areas very quickly. And a great example of that is our flagship farm in New York, New Jersey, which sits right outside of New York City and is in this in literally in the center of the downtown of Newark, New Jersey. And we can produce just absolutely nutritionally packed leafy greens for the communities there, and they can be eating them within 24 to 48 hours of those being harvested in our facility and that’s that’s a powerful nutritional access story. That’s an apparent a very powerful horticultural kind of problem solution story around logistics, and shipping. There’s a powerful climate change and environment story to be told about the way that we can scale and grow indoors and maximize the productivity of the space we’re in.

Tim:

So what Yeah, what kind of space are you in? Because I’m learning that more and more people that start these hydroponic companies are usually in like old abandoned warehouses or like an old like shopping market or something. So what kind of warehouse Are y’all in?

Trevor:

So the best This is great. And our our one of our warehouses is actually an old paint ball gaming facility. This is cool. Okay, yeah, and so we’ve actually left some of the graphics on the wall, everything is a little homage to the the paintball facility. And, and the other is a an abandoned steel factory building that was there. And so, you know, we’re right in the iron bound district of of Newark. And so those two facilities produce our commercial leafy greens as well as produce our r&d based material that we use for for developing new concepts and products. So what kind of products are Making? I mean, I’ve heard that when it comes to hydroponics, I think I heard this from somewhere where they’re doing it kind of in space they’re doing, they’re doing like very small hydroponic systems on the ISS. And they’re saying that it’s really helpful when you do something that has a large edible biomass. So things like leafy greens and stuff like that. And so what exactly are y’all growing?

Tim:

there’s some very specific requirements of, of products. And there’s horticultural and economic requirements for for this. But there’s the one of the main drivers of the success of a product in inverse indoor vertical farms is light use efficiency. And so we really, we have a very rigorous and to be honest, a proprietary screening process that we evaluate various different crops, and we run them through a protocol and an algorithm to determine which ones are going to be successful. But what we like about baby leafy greens, and, and some herbs, is their ability to grow quickly, to be suited for automated automated harvest. We’d like their value in the marketplace and where we can be competitive at at the grocery store shelf. So we compete against field farmers for that same shelf space on those retail store shelves. And so we factor all that in to tailor our exact product mix. In each of our different farms that we have, we just announced our new farm commercial farm that’s going to be built in Danville, Virginia, right on the North Carolina, Virginia line. And we also just announced a farm being built in the St. Louis area in conjunction with the Henry Danforth center, as well as the World Wildlife Federation.

Trevor:

Okay, yeah. And that’s going to be a whole brand new kind of community you guys are going to impact with, with hydroponics with this vertical farm. So are you guys, what kind of like educational tools have y’all done, where you’re trying to tell people like, Hey, this is how vertical farming works. This is what it can do. buy our products, here’s how they’re helping the environment. So what all are y’all doing there on the education side? Yeah, so

Tim:

we’ve got a couple of different kind of what I would say, prongs to that fork, so to speak, one of which is, in our earlier days, we actually fulfilled Ed’s vision of building some, what I would call tabletop or, or modular grow systems that utilize our technology. And we worked with in the city of Newark, with one of the Newark charter schools, and we put it in the school to learn about urban ag with the students and teach them about that. And they were they would then eat those leafy greens as part of their salads at lunch. And that was just an awesome 360 connection for them on a variety of levels. For that, we are working on a variety of pilot programs with various land grant universities, to help them shape curricula around indoor vertical farming so that as the next generation of the labor force comes through the ag sciences programs, they are training them to have the latest and greatest skill sets that are gonna be needed by this industry as it matures. And then the ultimate thing is our flagship r&d facility where it’s a research and development facility, it provides verification of our different technologies. And we’ve expanded that and announced the world’s largest r&d based indoor vertical farm, which is we broke ground on this summer in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates in conjunction with the United Arab Emirates University, and other industry partners there. And so we are really committed to education, r&d for this industry as it matures over time.

Trevor:

That’s so cool. I mean, I feel like as I mean, this industry has been around for a little bit, but there’s still so much r&d and kind of growth, because I know even just a few years ago, when really LED lights kind of became super popular, because you used to have to use these really expensive bulbs. I remember when I was teaching we had a greenhouse with a smaller hydroponic system, and the light bulb goes out and so to buy a new one was like $300, but now you can get an LED light system for that’s huge and outputs, the exact light spectrums that the plant needs, and it’s a lot cheaper. So I feel like that’s one a revolution that’s kind of happened. There’s no telling what’s going to happen next. Right. Absolutely. I

Tim:

think and that’s one of the reasons why it’s an exciting time to be in this industry, because it’s it is in its infancy, but it’s it’s maturing very rapidly. And I think that the opportunities in this industry From like what you said, with lighting efficiency, development, fertility regimes in these systems, there’s a whole world of genetics out there yet to be optimized and developed for CEA based or indoor vertical farm cropping systems. So it really, really is a ground level kind of getting in on the ground level opportunity in a variety of facets of this, this section of the industry.

Trevor:

So I know that one of the huge selling points about this technology is that if you’re in a large urban area, you can produce food locally, like you’re not having to bring in transport it from across the country or anywhere. So do you see this as kind of like kind of an answer to helping reduce our carbon emissions?

Tim:

Absolutely. And I think it also is going to help enhance the nutritional quality of our food, because you remember, for example, in strawberry, you know, a lot of times there have to be sacrifices made at the breeding level, because they need to be able to transport that strawberry across the country, or in some cases across the world. And so they need to breed for certain traits that tend to allow it to be stored longer, and transportability, lack of bruising and things. And so while they may be able to select for that, they may end up losing some of the flavor and nutritional aspects of it. But they have to kind of, you know, go for the best of both worlds. In our particular case, we represent an opportunity to reduce the amount of logistics required to get this product to the end consumer, we can scale vertically, so an acre farm of footprint can be up to 390 times more productive than an acre of field ground, then our system, and so you think about the the you know, and we don’t have the pest pressures, environmental pressures that come with that. So the the lack of pesticides that we you know, we don’t have to use the prescriptive levels of fertility that we can use. So there isn’t waste because we measure both what’s going in and we measure, because we’re aeroponic and hydroponic based, we can measure what’s coming out of the drain, and we can dial back or dial up nutrients based on what the plant is and isn’t using, feel farmers can’t do that. They don’t see that it just all runs offered, moves through the soil profile into the water system. And so there is an incredibly powerful environmental story to be told here. When you compare this to field agriculture.

Trevor:

Yeah, and also, I mean, with the systems you can grow year round, I mean, you don’t have to wait on the season, the right time of year to plan or anything, because it’s indoor, and it’s an indoor environment, you can grow basically, whatever you’re out.

Tim:

Yeah, I love that, you know, when I speak to to younger audiences. I love to just say that, you know, at aerofarms we’re not limited to the soil, the season or the sun, we can really grow 20 473 65 and it’s a whole new frontier for producing food. Yeah, I can’t wait to see what happens. Because I mean, there’s some that I know aeroponics is huge, where you know, you kind of suspend the plant and it’s like misted throughout the year. I know, that’s not really as popular because I mean, it’s a little bit more intensive, I think. But I’ve seen some companies like you guys, that will have like a little demo of that and kind of explain what that is. Like, for example, my favorite ride at Disney World is the land because they have hydroponics and aeroponics and so they have this little thing. And I want to say it’s brussel sprouts that are like they’re on this conveyor belt system where they’re moving around, and their roots are literally just hanging there. And then they go through this little door that miss them with water and nutrients. And so it’s super cool. I mean, there’s so many different ways and different systems that you have.

Trevor:

Yeah, I mean this this these indoor vertical farm systems are an agricultural engineers paradise, because there’s so many different ways that you now have available to you to work with the natural plant architecture that the growing habit and structure and form of the plant.

Tim:

And you kind of have this blank canvas to be able to design grow systems and grow chambers and towers around the ideal architecture of of the plant. For example, we are in a partnership with our good friends at Horta fruit, which is one of the largest berry growers in the world and we’re specifically focusing on indoor vertically farmed blueberry, which, as a as a New Jersey native, Trevor, the blueberry was originally domesticated out of the Pine Barrens of southern New Jersey in the early 1900s. And became a main crop for not only the US and the world And here is arrow farms working with word fruit pioneering or re domesticating, blueberry for indoor vertical farms. And it’s exciting because those plants that they are using for these indoor vertical farm systems have such a unique architecture. And we’re building very interesting. Grow systems and structures to to capitalize on the canopy and the architecture of those plants.

Trevor:

Oh, that’s exciting. I didn’t know that about the blueberry. That’s pretty cool. So I know there’s a lot of different companies out there that are doing vertical farming and stuff like that. So how exactly are you guys that aerofarms different? Like, where do you guys get doing different? What kind of sets you apart from the other? vertical growing companies out there?

Tim:

Yeah, I think, you know, in a nutshell, for me, Trevor, I think it’s that we’re playing long ball. And when I say we’re playing long ball, we are very committed to our core of browned r&d associated with our cropping systems. We are in it to be the kind of industry leader in the industry stalwart in perfecting these systems, optimizing the systems, no matter which crop these that we’re working in, we have a whole portfolio of patents that we have filed around the various technologies that we’re developing. And so Ed Harwood, our founder, and his co founders, David Rosenberg, and Marcus Shima, have really set a vision for long term, sustainable presence and growth in our industry for aerofarms.

Trevor:

So I like that idea of just kind of sticking around for the long haul, instead of just really kind of going crazy and hopping on kind of the trend. I mean, that’s a good idea, you guys are kind of focusing on the long haul, where this technology is going to take you. And also, I saw some on your website about partnering with you guys about doing co production with with hydroponics, is that right?

Tim:

Yeah, so that’s a project that I’m actually involved in, as well. And so it’s new project, it’s with cargo Corp. And, you know, that particular industry is just absolutely being decimated by climate change, and the growing regions of the world, that they have their, their suppliers are really struggling with the quality of the product that’s being produced, the growth systems are being challenged now as climate and environmental patterns are changing. And so we are working with them to try and innovate in areas, particularly around nursery tree production for them to try and optimize the health and vigor of these trees before they go out into the real world and have to do do battle with all the environmental pressures that come from being out there in the natural world. And so our, you know, our theory is, is let’s innovate, and produce these superior nursery trees that can then just hit the ground running and be vigorous and healthy, because they came from, you know, this perfect environment. And, you know, we’re in the very early stages of, of an 18 month kind of benchmarking phase, that’s gonna, you know, parlay into a multi year partnership agreement. And again, that’s part of our long term vision for, for these projects and cargo realize that and we were thrilled that they wanted to partner with us over that.

Unknown Speaker 28:43

Yeah, that’s super exciting. I mean, that’s the first time I’ve heard of another crop like cacao that’s going to be grown, possibly using this technology. I mean, that’s huge. I mean, there’s no telling what’s going to be next, if it’s going to be oranges, apples, or, you know, kind of larger produce, it’s kind of more typically difficult to grow in those circumstances.

Tim:

Absolutely. And I think that, you know, this is our first foray into tree crops. And I can speak from experience in industry, you know, you know, the tree fruit folks and the citrus folks, and everybody kind of raised one eyebrow when they saw that one. Oh, okay, trees. Let’s keep an eye on that here in the coming years. And it wouldn’t shock me if if we were to, you know, in five or so years, we’re talking about more and more tree crops.

Trevor:

That’s super fascinating. Well, I can’t see I can’t wait to see how that goes. I mean, that’s going to be super neat to follow. So when it comes to this technology, and we kind of mentioned earlier, do you think things like this I know you know, Elan musk Musk is wanting to go to Mars, populate Mars, go back to the moon and stuff like that. And so as we’re slowly trying to like become a multiplanetary species. Do you think stuff like this kind of might be the answer to feeding people on different points? Whether that’s Mars, the moon or even the space station where we can use systems like hydroponics.

Tim:

Potentially, I think that we’ve got a lot of work to do here first on earth, and I think that we, we are going to be able to create a lot of learning and knowledge here that may in the future be applied up there. As you know, obviously, we are a ways away from that, but I can tell you that, you know, this, this horticulture in a box, so to speak, or farming in a box is is going to have to be a foundational element for ways to sustain, you know, human populations off the planet. So I’m sure this will be someday long before you and I or, or long after you and I are around, someone will be looked back at at an indoor vertical farming and say, yeah, that, you know, our space farms have their roots in that no pun intended.

Trevor:

Yeah, no, that’s true. That’s funny. Yeah, it’s gonna be very interesting. I mean, of course, with that, with those systems, you’ve got to have water. So you’ve obviously got to have some sort of production for water. So that’d be pretty hard to do in space stations are on Mars, or the moon or anywhere. So that’d be very interesting. So what’s the future looking like for you guys? I mean, I know you’ve got multiple projects going on, you’ve got another farm you guys are putting up in Virginia? Um, are you are you guys wanting to kind of spread throughout the country without also kind of losing the focus of playing the long term goal? So what’s the future gonna look like? Yeah,

Tim:

I think for for aerofarms, we’re going to continue to kind of expand our footprint. But most importantly, Trevor, I think that aerofarms is going to continue to build equity in the aerofarms, brand around, nutritionally packed, well, grown, healthy, great tasting food, whether that’s you eat an aerofarms, micro green, you eaten aerofarms, romaine salad mix, you eat an aerofarms, strawberry or an aerofarms blueberry in the future, we want to be associated with not only the indoor vertical farming, but the, the the nutritional quality, and the amazing flavor that comes from these these products, because of the growth system that we’re utilizing. And I think for us, success for us is going to be, you know, the best of both worlds in feeding people with just awesome tasting food, but also minimizing the environmental impact for folks. Hmm,

Trevor:

I like that. Yeah, I can’t wait to see more companies kind of jump into this whole vertical farming thing. So I mean, what’s been the biggest struggle? I mean, I know when you’re starting a company like this kind of, first off, one of the biggest struggles is going to be just steal it from cost, because this technology is really difficult. But I mean, also, I’m sure educating consumers is difficult getting investors. So what’s kind of been the biggest struggles you guys have faced? Yeah,

Tim:

I mean, for for aerofarms. Like any other, you know, early stage scaling company, it’s, it’s been resources, right, we’ve had to, you know, raise capital and use that capital wisely. You know, where we’re growing, we’re working with natural biological systems. So, you know, while we may be in a factory type building, this is not just factory farming. And so it’s not like we set a set a machine up, and it just produces less plants. I mean, there’s tremendous variability in genetics and other environmental inputs that we have there. So we have to really be on top of our game. And we have a tremendous growing staff and science staff that really work on the day to day challenges of, of these growth systems. And so there’s been a lot of horticultural optimization that’s taken place. And we’ve come tremendously far, but we we like all the other indoor vertical farm companies have a lot of room for improvement moving forward.

Trevor

That’s good to hear. So I’ve got a little hydroponic system, and I can never get it working well. And so how hard was it to kind of the biggest thing I struggle with was the nutrients either adding too much or too little and having the pH just right. So I mean, that’s a huge struggle when you’re trying to maintain 1000s and 1000s of plants. So I imagine it’s pretty important to pay attention to those levels, right.

Tim:

Absolutely. Absolutely. We have an amazing system that we’ve partnered with Dell corporation to build a data visualization module that aggregates all of our indoor farming environmental data and nutrition data, temperature, data humidity. And our science team uses that as a centralized visualization tool so that they can monitor all facets and aspects of the growth and measure that against our performance metrics of our crops so that they, on a real time basis can make adjustments to our growing systems to maximize the growth and yield of those products. Hmm.

Trevor:

Yeah, I mean, there’s so much science that goes into it. And I wish I could devote all the time in the world to just studying how, how to do it effectively. But I’ve learned a lot through trial and error. And so I haven’t cranked up one for summer or fall yet. So hopefully, sometime soon, I’m going to start small. And last year, I tried a pepper plant, it did not work out. So I’m gonna try something smaller, like a lettuce or spinach. So hopefully that’ll work or maybe some microgreens. Those are always fun the grow. So how do you feel about the farmer consumer relationship here in 2021? I feel like it’s improved. And this is something I always like to ask people in the ag world, because they always have a different perspective on it. So how do you think the farmer consumer relationship is? Well, I think,

Tim:

I mean, overall, I think that it’s a powerful relationship. I think part of part of our mission and all agricultural professionals mission is to further connect the general public to the food that they eat, we talk about that, whether it’s understanding where their protein their meat comes from, whether they understand where their vegetables and fruit come from, I think the more we can establish an emotional connection, and a consciousness by the consumer to a local farmer, I think the more value that the consumer sees in those products, and thus, they’re willing to pay more of a fair price for the product that is farmed by those farmers. And we can help the industry be much more viable and thrive better by having that consciousness be transacted through a fair price for a product that’s been grown. Because all too often, you know, the large industrial scale, conventional corporate farms, just brace to the bottom with price. And the consumers would, you know, don’t understand that. But the power of a locally grown piece of food is very powerful in the minds of creating value for the consumer and the general public. That and the word organic are two very powerful triggers, emotional triggers for for them, that they tend to be willing to pay more for something that’s locally produced and organic in its certification, because of the connotation that comes with that. So I think that that consciousness in that relationship between farmer and consumer, you know, as, as all of us in the farming community, whether we’re into vertical farmers are filled farmers, we have to continue to foster and build and maintain those relationships with the general public.

Trevor:

I like that, yeah. And I’ve always tended to think that the closer the farmer and the consumer are in terms of their relationship, I feel like the healthier the consumer will be. I mean, if you can find a farmer, and if you can just buy straight from them, you’re probably gonna buy less processed stuff, you’re gonna have a healthier food system, you’re gonna have healthier diet. And I mean, it’s a win win.

Tim:

It sure is for you know, I’ve volunteered over the years on various farmers markets boards, I’m a huge proponent of farmers markets. And I think that the more people can get that direct connection with that grower, but also they can understand that those dollars are going to then circulate much more locally in their economy. And that, that weaves a social and economic fabric that strengthens and strengthens that community. And so I’ve, I’ve always volunteered my time to, to help local farmers markets thrive. Because, you know, if you look at them on a national basis, they struggle a little bit with their authenticity, right, with real farmers, you know, selling the produce that they’ve grown versus, say, a wholesaler, or a middle person coming in and selling something that they just, you know, distributor bought. And so the more we can directly connect those constituents to those consumers with those, those farmers from their local region, it’s a very powerful, powerful model.

Trevor

I like that. Yeah, we we’ve actually got several here in Panama City, and I feel like they’ve gotten super popular especially now, during COVID. I mean, people want to buy more and I’ve heard All in South Florida doing that as well, doing more direct to consumers. And so I think one of the positives of all this COVID stuff is that that’s slowly happening. Like we’re slowly getting more out there. We’re learning more about where our food comes from. We’re taking more risks at farmer’s markets and stuff like that. So yeah, maybe it’s the future. I mean, we’ll see. We’ll see where that goes.

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