According to certain estimates, the global indoor farming market size was valued at $32.3 billion in 2020 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 10.9% from 2021 to 2028. Adding to the rapid growth of indoor farming is the fact that agriculture is under increasing environmental, economic and political pressure as humanity figures out how we will feed 10 billion people. What role will indoor agriculture play in helping augment the strain on agriculture going forward?
That’s what Grand Farm examined at its first Innovation Series of 2022, co-hosted with Food of the North and focused on Indoor Agriculture. Grand Farm’s Innovation Series is a regular meetup that covers a different topic in AgTech at each event and serves as a gathering of entrepreneurs, industry professionals, and innovators.
Taking a look first at innovators working in the indoor agriculture space, the event featured two startups focusing on the production system and energy required.
- Eden Grow Systems, whose mission is to provide sustainable food and energy independence to local communities around the world, and one day, off it, unveiled their new indoor grow tower at the event. The tower will contain a plant health project between Eden Growth Systems, North Dakota State University, and Grand Farm and will be featured in Grand Farm’s downtown Fargo offices in the Prairie Den Events and Coworking Space.
- An input that must be considered in utilizing indoor agriculture is the energy needed for production. BIOO, a biotech startup that generates electricity produced as a result of the decomposition of organic substances by microorganisms within the soil, joined the event to discuss the concept of biological batteries and preview the real-world applications already in process. BIOO’s microbial fuel cell is powered by a consortium of microorganisms living in their natural medium. Organic matter from fertilizers and the soil is dragged by irrigation and rainwater inside the cell and microorganisms break down the organic molecules setting electrons free, thus generating an electrical current in the cell.
- The event next explored indoor agriculture projects and production already underway in North Dakota. Larry’s Hydro Lettuce, based in Fullerton, North Dakota, utilizes hydroponic technology to grow fresh and tasteful lettuce with a mission to provide safe, top-quality, and long-lasting lettuce. With the help of NDSU researchers, owner Larry Schumacker has developed a state-of-the-art indoor growing system. Larry discussed the systems he utilizes in his lettuce production and the business side of indoor agriculture.
Scaling the kind of production Larry’s Hydro Lettuce is using may sound futuristic, however, the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation (MHA Nation) Native Green Grow (NG2) Green House Project is doing just that. Lead Architect Randy Lindemann of the MHA Nation NG2 Green House Project joined the event to walk through the ongoing project.
NG2 is a food sovereignty initiative that creates environmental stewardship by reducing the amount of flared gas on Fort Berthold while creating a stable food system and economy for the MHA Nation nation by growing their own healthy, accessible and fresh food. Self-contained, climate-controlled greenhouses will grow vegetable produce from heat and electricity generated by converting captured gas from oil wells that are currently being flared. Greenhouses will cover an area approximately the size of seven football fields.
Having heard from companies working in the indoor agriculture field and projects to move the concept forward, Food of the North led a panel discussion on how indoor agriculture can help expand food access with the North Dakota Rural Grocers Initiative, Great Plains Food Bank, and Rhombus Guys Pizza.