They Grow Low, You Grow High: Vertical Farming and the Future of Agriculture
Within the next 3 decades or so, Earth’s population will grow to over 10 billion. For alarmists and pragmatists alike, that statistical fact raises an existential question: how in the world are we going to feed all those people?
This is the basic question Stanford Professor Paul R. Ehrlich asked and answered in his controversial 1968 book, The Population Bomb. Ehrlich’s prognosis was grim: “the battle to feed all of humanity is over.” Sometime in the mid-80s, Ehrlich predicted, the “end” would come and we would all finally starve.
Yet, here we are.
What proved Ehrlich wrong? What allowed the human race to not only buck the trend towards starvation but to significantly reverse it? To keep things simple, let’s sum up the answers to those questions in one word: innovation.
Just as moldboard plows and portable refrigeration revolutionized food production back in the 18th and 19th centuries, the past few decades’ advances in genetic engineering and agricultural technology (agtech) have led to unprecedented levels of production.
When Supply Chains Go Down, Growth Goes Up (Literally)
Necessity is the mother of all invention. Thanks to COVID-19 and the havoc it wrecked on supply chains across the world, the agricultural industry was forced to leverage novel solutions in order to ward off the very real threat of mass starvation in 2020.
One of the most promising advances that received heightened attention during that time was vertical farming. Just like it sounds, vertical farming focuses on expanding upward rather than outward. The payoff? Instead of planting and plowing acres and acres of farmland, a vertical farmer can sow his crops up the broadside of a skyscraper.
The advantages to vertical farming are legion:
- Indoor vertical farms are essentially weather-proof.
- By planting upward, vertical farmers can produce more food using less space.
- Well-suited to urban spaces, vertical farms can provide inner-city food deserts with a steady supply of nutritious fruits and vegetables.
- Vertical farming saves water, eliminates the need for pesticides, and drastically reduces the time spent and costs expended transporting crops from field to store.
Investors Get Excited About Vertical Farming
Challenges remain for vertical farms and farmers: labor is not cheap, and operating costs for environmentally controlled enclosures tend to run high.
Still, the U.S. and global markets are excited about the future of vertical farming. In October, the U.S.-based vertical farmer Plenty raised $140 million in Series D funding. Berlin-based InFarm managed to raise $170 million in Series C, as well. And, according to recent reports, the vertical farming market is projected to reach $7.4 billion by 2025.
The numbers don’t lie. Savvy investors across the globe are eager to fund what appears to be not just a lucrative enterprise but a real benefit to the human race. But, there’s a hiccup here: very few vertical farming companies are available for public investment.
An Opportunity For Everyone to Invest in Vertical Farming
On January 28th, Agrify—a developer of advanced hardware and software solutions for indoor agriculture—began trading publicly on the NASDAQ under the symbol ‘AGFY’.
Agrify uses data, science, and technology to empower vertical farmers to get smart and lean about how they run their business. Their solutions have helped customers achieve the highest quality, consistency, and yield while keeping operating costs to a minimum.
Companies like Agrify are taking their place in the long history of innovation that has allowed agtech to meet the demand for nutritious ways to feed our ever-growing world. For investors who want to join in that noble and necessary pursuit, this is their chance.
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