AeroFarms was featured in a Columbia Business School Ideas & Insights article about the many alumni working to feed the 9 billion people expected to inhabit the earth by 2050. The AeroFarms section is below. Read the entire article at www.gsb.columbia.edu.
April 18, 2017
By: Autumn Spanne
When we think of agriculture, we naturally think of land. But in many places, intensive agriculture has so severely depleted soil and other resources that land can no longer be cultivated; in others, drought has ravaged fertile farmland. And as the global population grows increasingly urban, there’s a need to find more efficient ways to grow food close to those population centers.
Building up — the way we build high-rise apartment and office buildings — is a solution that’s gaining attention. New Jersey–based AeroFarms, co-founded by Marc Oshima ’97 and David Rosenberg ’02, is a pioneer in so-called vertical farming. The company produces leafy greens that thrive in a high-tech production method that doesn’t require sunlight, soil, or pesticides. Instead, the company mists water and nutrients onto the plants, which grow atop reusable cloths under LED lights in spacious warehouse-style buildings.
Oshima says the company’s proprietary process uses 95 percent less water and produces yields 130 times that of conventional farming, since they can grow and harvest all year in the climate-controlled environment.
AeroFarms also situates production in urban areas near major distribution routes. Its headquarters in Newark is the largest indoor vertical farm in the world, housed in a former steel mill that includes labs for developing new crops. It brings fresh produce to local urban food deserts and provides year-round local employment.
Its five-year expansion plan includes starting 25 vertical farms in North America, Asia, Africa, and Europe, as well as developing renewable energy resources to help the farms produce more efficiently. However, for AeroFarms, the goal is growing not only more plants, but also tastier ones. “The way we can optimize a plant to influence not just yield but taste, texture, and nutritional density is changing the way the world looks at farming,” says Rosenberg. “Vertical farming won’t solve all the world’s problems in feeding humanity, but it is certainly part of the solution.”
Adds Oshima, “This is truly about having an impact around the world.”