Nov 16, 2020
Advancing Vertical Farming with Urban Crop Solutions
Meet Tom Debusschere at Agritecture Xchange, Buy your tickets today!
Tell us a little about yourself! What sparked your interest in urban farming and led you to Urban Crop Solutions?
When I first saw living plants growing under LED lights, I was truly in awe. This technology is really magical. Then I realized the promise for more nutritious and fresh food, also in regions in this world that don’t have the right sunshine, temperature, water or space; so I jumped in. With both my savings and my passion.
What can we expect to hear from you in your intervention at the “Controlled Environment Agriculture: Deep Dive” panel?
This new technology is magical, but to be truly sustainable, people will need to be able to make a living at it. I believe that beyond the hype, there is a great need for transparency, especially around the difficult economics of this expensive technology. After almost 2 years, I realized that the journey into Vertical Farming is very long and confusing, with many surprises along the road. We at Urban Crop Solutions have developed a free feasibility calculator, which is linked to our crop database. With this tool, you can simulate different crop mixes and volumes yourself, so you can find out quickly whether you have a profitable business in your hands.
With your “dreams of scaling up a leader at the crossroads of indoor biology and factory engineering”, how has the process of supporting budding entrepreneurs been for you? What challenges have you faced in driving profit to this industry?
At this stage of infancy of Vertical Farming, large scale plant factories of 10m USD or more make sense if you know exactly which crops, at which volumes, at which price levels, and the quality specifications. These are the Walmarts and the Krogers of this world. Within 3-5 years, as our industry matures, this will probably become an important segment.
However, most are new entrants into this industry. We quickly realized there is a pressing need for a modular solution. We developed ModuleX, which allows an entrepreneur to start up quickly (1st harvest in 6 months or less), prove the concept with a showcase farm, and then ramp up fast.
We also improved full unit production costs to below 5 usd/lbs (basil, romaine lettuce, microgreens) by developing the ‘bench-carousel’ which allows full automation, even with a small-sized 925 sq ft grow modules.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell our audience prior to watching you address the panel?
However magical this technology is, however grand the possibilities are, keep focusing on the hard facts and figures when you venture into Vertical Farming. Check your biology assumptions by doing a validation test in our Research Center, check your financial assumptions with our feasibility calculator. And by all means, stay flexible, and keep your options open. The journey will lead you to possibilities you couldn’t have imagined when you first embarked!