We know that customization means that the product, service or initiative is made more relevant to a specific need or lifestyle. Customization means that what matters to you is taken into consideration, and that there is an understanding on how to meet your unique requirements. We think that should also apply to how food and plant-based medicine is grown. Why grow vegetables, fruit, nutraceuticals or pharmaceuticals in a standard greenhouse or on a generic acre of land – in a process and facility that doesn’t take the region’s climate or other challenges or opportunities into consideration? This won’t allow the plant to thrive.
It is a bit like trying to fit a round peg into a square hole because that is most economical way to do it. From our perspective, that’s just plain wrong.
We believe that it takes a precision ecosystem to maximize a plant’s yield and reduce a grower’s financial risk. By precision ecosystem, I mean a growing environment carefully designed from the inside out, starting with the plant. Different plants achieve their full potential in highly specific microclimates as we’ve seen in the world’s most storied growing regions – Bordeaux, Sonoma, Kobe, Tuscany, Idaho and Provence, to name just a few.
Everyone understands this principle intuitively, but then 75% of the United States’ lettuce and leafy greens are grown in California. Why? Is the West Coast vibe specifically what the plants “crave”? Not really, it’s just the way the produce supply chain has evolved. The fact is, different kinds of greens have different optimal requirements in terms of water, nutrients, light, temperature and timing. We know that this isn’t given enough attention in the current AgTech industry. It is more of a one size fits all, and that’s just not good enough.
That’s why we, at AgriFORCE Growing Systems, have developed something far more sophisticated than “off-the-rack” growing systems. The AgriFORCE proprietary facility design and automated growing system was created to work in extreme weather – hot and cold – and that means it can adapt to almost any locale around the world. Our precision ecosystem is designed specifically to allow the plants being grown to thrive. We are dedicated to creating precise ecosystems in order to achieve the best taste, freshness, nutrition or – in the case of plants used for medicinal purposes – purity, consistency and, ultimately, efficacy. Not to mention, operational excellence and business results.
Overall, this type of precision doesn’t add a lot of cost to a growing environment. Additional yield will defray start-up costs much more quickly than if a grower purchased and equipped a greenhouse out of a catalog.
When we partner with a grower, we work with them to:
Embrace the natural light – Depending on the plants and the site, you could be exposing your crop to the maximum possible photoperiod of sunlight or modulating it. Based on the plant’s demands (and real estate considerations), you might grow in moving vertical tiers or in traditional flat expanses.
Configuring supplemental grow lighting – While many growers pick the cheapest “blurple” lights they can find, we help ensure your plants get the right spectrum of light for the right duration at the right time of day – and at the right time of the plant’s life cycle. As LED prices fall, this type of optimization will only become more cost-effective.
Regulate temperature – Warm is often good when it comes to plants, but heat can quickly become expensive and destructive. We can modulate the temperature with sun, shade, artificial clouds and, when necessary, HVAC.
Fertigation – Automated irrigation and feeding keeps costs down and yields up, but they have to be calibrated to each plant’s needs. That means configuring software not only to feed and water the plants (via the Internet of things) but also to constantly learn what recipes, proportions and schedules are working best during which stages of a plant’s life. That’s machine learning.
Site plan – Finally, we help lay out the facility to streamline and automate the processes of planting, maintenance, harvest, packaging and shipment. A proper site plan with mechanization significantly reduces handling and associated costs.
All of this AgTech might sound involved and expensive, but every customization is associated with a tangible return on investment in the form of yield, flavor, nutrients or efficacy. Customization matters when it comes to allowing plants to thrive.
Ingo Mueller, CEO for AgriFORCE Growing Systems, is currently working from his home office in North Vancouver, British Columbia. He continues to connect with the AgriFORCE team, strategic partners and others around the world – whether that is in California, New York or several other states where AgriFORCE has business interests. He is also in constant contact with our partners in Europe, as we raise the flag there for AgriFORCE and the company’s unique (and proprietary) facility design and automated growing system.
The Notes from the CEO happen when Ingo gets a bit of time to share his perspective on the world of AgTech, the AgriFORCE team, work/life balance and his vision for creating positive change in the world.