Oct 19, 2020
NXTLVL Farms Is Leading Urban Farming In the Philippines
NXTLVL Farms, and its brand Future Fresh, is the pioneer and leading indoor, urban farm in the Philippines. Derya Tanghe, Co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of NXTLVL Farms explains, “We established the farm to provide top-quality produce consistently all year-round. Prior to us, there was no farm in the country that could consistently supply high quality fresh produce 365 days a year with the guarantee of no bad leaves or waste on delivery.” NXTLVL Farms sells their fresh produce through retail stores (supermarket chains), direct to consumers online via their website and through additional e-commerce partnerships.
Designing an Indoor Farm
NXTLVL Farms focuses on homegrown local innovation and using proprietary design and specifications. As the founding team had no prior agriculture experience, they sought to hire talented experts and work with advisers to create an indoor growing system that matched their expectations. Tanghe explains, “Our first major challenge was to design a vertical farming system tailor-fit to function optimally in the tropical environments of Southeast Asia. After the second update to our farm system, we had to do something that others had not: to containerize a flood and drain growing system in a controlled environment.” NXTLVL is now exceeding their yield expectations allowing them to maintain a strong competitive advantage in the Philippines.
“We first contacted AGR because of their reputation, and seeing their past work. After speaking with them and describing our vision for the Philippines and Southeast Asia, we felt confident to proceed. We aligned quicker with AGR than others. Our co-designed system is working better than we’d hoped. We have many new products to launch in our roadmap,” Tanghe said.
Agritecture consults on various CEA projects around the world. The Agritecture team believes in understanding project context as a guiding factor for building a food business. Through understanding the market and selecting a crop that is in high demand, our clients can reduce the risk involved with the implementation of their plans.
Tanghe explains, “We reached out to AGR to advise us on the third innovative design of our indoor farm system. Dubbed the NXTLVL Farmbox MK III, it is a fully-indoor hydroponic farm containerized using ebb and flow technology.” By utilizing Agritecture’s Farm design services, AGR supported NXTLVL with the HVAC requirements and equipment to provide optimal conditions, yield estimations for leafy greens to estimate production volumes, and provided layouts to optimize space use efficiency inside the grow room.
Alberto Lopez, Systems Engineer at Agritecture explains, "It was an interesting challenge since it was designing a closed loop HVAC system for very humid and warm external conditions, a lot of research was conducted on the characteristics of the equipment itself with viable suppliers for the region. We followed up with NXTLVL a couple of months after the design was completed, it was really fulfilling to learn that the constructed system exceeded their performance expectations.”
Currently, NXTLVL is looking to accomplish their fundraising goals in order to expand throughout the Philippines market. After building additional indoor, urban farm sites in Metro Manila, they plan to grow nationwide with their indoor farm systems and introduce new products to the market not seen before.
The global pandemic proved the need to build food systems that make access to high-quality produce effective and easy in urban environments. Especially clear in the Philippines is the poor infrastructure where fresh produce generally passes through ten intermediaries before reaching the end-customer. Tanghe describes, “With us, it only passes through two. In reaction to COVID-19, we improved biosecurity further at our site. Outside of the indoor farm systems, we regularly do testing and added more procedures pre farm-entry, including for all our delivery personnel.” NXTLVL’s farming, harvesting and packaging processes moved to full PPE gear in a clean, sterile environment. Not only did they experience a surge in sales of our online, direct-to-consumer channel as more people stayed indoors, but also customers expressed the desire for more nutritious food and an interest in knowing where their food was coming from. Customers appreciated the fact that their produce was being grown in a controlled-environment nearby.
If you’re looking for similar support in planning your urban farm, reach out to Agritecture today!