This Vertical Farming System is Enhancing Grocery Stores in Canada
Agritecture recently interviewed Andrew Matthews, VP of Business Development for Inno-3B. Inno-3B is an innovative company which designs and manufactures vertical farming robotic platforms in closed environments for crops of high-density plants. These modules control the environment to facilitate harvesting and improve yields.
AGR: Can you tell us a little about Inno-3B? What does your name mean, and what sets you apart from other companies in this industry?
Andrew Matthews: Thanks for the opportunity to be part of your blog! Inno-3B is based in Quebec, Canada, and the 3B’s stands for the 3 founders of our business, Martin Brault, David Brault (no relation) and Pierre Boulanger. We started out as three guys in a garage in 2014 and now we are up to about 20 people: a combination of agronomists, controlled environment specialists, engineers, programmers and business people. We build and design automated, vertical farming equipment for producers and growers; our systems are scalable, so they can support large or small scale growers.
One of our most revolutionary products to date is a tower system, called Yield Factory, that runs 20 to 30ft high and has an automated extractor within the tower. In designing Yield Factory, we focused on significantly reducing a couple of major pain points in the vertical farming industry: space and labor. We supply our equipment to both large scale producers of leafy greens and also the plant-based pharma sector. We will also train our customers on how to use our systems so that they can optimize performance for their specific needs.
What is your Yield Factory system?
The Yield Factory (tower system) can run 20-30ft high, which enables the grower/producer to grow more in less space than traditional systems, and we also have an automated extractor within the tower that essentially can pull out a group of trays and bring them to the processing area of the farm. Having the automated extractor reduces labor requirements and the need to go up and down with lifts. Our goal is to help the grower/producer extract as much value out of the vertical farm as possible, enabling them to achieve a profitable business.
Our team of agronomists and controlled environment specialists work extremely hard to make sure that our Yield Factory towers are tailored to the specific greens that the customer wants to grow. Given that our system is a completely closed off environment, we are able to get a high level of consistency in plant growth that other systems simply aren’t able to achieve.
From my perspective, having a team of agronomists and controlled environment specialists on our team really allows for an in-depth and engaged discussion to happen between us and the client.
Tell us about your recent installation in Quebec’s largest organic supermarket.
Inno-3B was approached by the owner of Avril (which is a large supermarket chain in Quebec) when they were building a new flagship store outside of Montreal. The owner wanted a new concept to draw more customers and enhance the in-store experience and they thought that an in-store vertical farming system would be the perfect solution. Inno-3B was tasked to design, build, and install the indoor vertical farming system from germination to harvest. This was a great opportunity for us to showcase our Yield Factory in a very visible location. We also trained the Avril supermarket staff on how to manage and operate the in-store vertical farm.
The tower is currently producing micro-greens that are used by the in-store restaurant and are also sold under the Avril brand name on the store shelf. The farm is so productive, in fact, that it is also servicing a number of other Avril’s in the nearby area. Having Inno-3B design, build, and install the entire system from start to finish allowed the customer to feel more comfortable with adopting a new way of doing things in their store, and was ultimately essential to the success of this project.
Do you envision expanding into other retailers in the future? What about other markets?
Yes, we certainly do have an interest in expanding into other retailers, but at the same time our systems are fully scalable and can produce a high volume of greens and are not just designed for in-store retail systems. One of our main markets is going to be supplying our Yield Factory towers to large-scale commercial vertical farms, as well as working with the plant-based pharma sector.
Are you working on any other products right now besides Yield Factory?
Our main focus as a business is on the Yield Factory tower system and being able to provide various sizes of those systems to customers and to provide them at a cost where customers can get a good rate of return on their investment. We believe that a lot of the larger vertical farming companies don’t necessarily have enough time to be developing the next generation equipment, so we see ourselves as the company that can do this research and design work for them and help them integrate our equipment into their process. We want to be complementary to their overall efforts.
For potential clients that are new to vertical farming we are working on developing a software program that will give them the entire picture of the farm, including CAPEX, OPEX and ROI. The idea is to make clients who are new to vertical farming feel more comfortable about moving forward with their business plans.
Bio: Andrew Matthews is the VP of Business Development for Inno-3B. He’s originally from Nova Scotia, Canada and has spent most of his career in the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa. He ran and built an engineering company from scratch in Afghanistan from 2009 to 2014.
email@example.com or +1.613.808.2633