INSPIRED IMPACT™ is an ongoing blog series that gives voice to social entrepreneurs and leaders of purpose-driven organizations who are making an impact in their communities, industries, and around the world.
WHAT DO YOU DO?
At AeroFarms, we are on a mission to grow the best plants possible for the betterment of humanity. We are a global, mission-driven company, Certified B Corporation and proud to be named one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies by Fast Company. Our patented, award-winning aeroponic technology provides the perfect conditions for healthy plants to thrive, taking indoor vertical farming to a new level of precision and productivity with minimal environmental impact and virtually zero risk. We have built out the world’s largest indoor vertical farm in Newark, NJ, where we have grown hundreds of varieties of pesticide-free, nutrient-dense, delicious baby leafy greens, herbs and microgreens. Through our retail brand Dream Greens, you can enjoy locally grown, pesticide-free produce that bursts with flavor and nutrition, all year round.
WHY DO YOU DO IT?
Our passion is nourishing communities with great tasting food and sharing our harvest with the world. Our global headquarters are based in Newark, NJ where we have the world’s largest indoor vertical farm. There has been tremendous demand for our locally grown, delicious, produce, and we have farms in development in multiple U.S. states and on four continents. There has never been a greater need for safe, dependable, nutritious food, and we are scaling quickly to transform agriculture around the world to build our 10th farm.
WHAT IMPACT ARE YOU MAKING?
At AeroFarms, we have been charting a course toward a new standard for environmentally sustainable urban agriculture since 2004. We are a Certified B-Corp with a strongly-held social mission and a true commitment to sustainable practices. First, we disrupt traditional supply chains by building farms on major distribution routes and near population centers, significantly reducing carbon emissions incurred from leafy greens trucking and distribution, which is the current industry norm. We grow using 95% less water than field farmed-food with zero harmful runoff, zero pesticides, and significantly less fertilizer, mitigating or totally eliminating any harm to the surrounding environment. Moreover, our environmentally-controlled indoor farms can grow all year round independent of climate and weather events. This means we don’t have to worry about frost or crop protection, and can grow just about any crop by replicating their ideal environment in our aeroponic vertical towers. To date, we have grown more than 500 varieties of leafy green vegetables and have grown other types of crops as well, demonstrating how we can diversify the food supply in a major way at a local and regional level.
Our largest project to date is the build-out of the largest indoor vertical farm in the world as well as our global headquarters on the site of an abandoned steel mill in Newark’s historic Ironbound district. By revitalizing this warehouse, we were able to breathe new life into an abandoned space, bring more than 70 jobs to the community, as well as provide year-round access to local, fresh, safe, and nutritious produce to a food desert. Food security and climate resiliency are also strongly connected, and by growing indoors independent of weather, we are able to ensure fresh food production independent of climate or weather events. We also look at climate resiliency from an energy standpoint and have invested in natural gas turbines to be able to generate our own clean energy independent of the grid. We are a crowd platform partner for 100 Resilient Cities initiative, an initiative of the Rockefeller Foundation to help cities worldwide build resilience to the growing social, economic and physical challenges of the 21st century including shocks and everyday stresses.
Moreover, we are not just a farm–we are a group of full-stack, world-class agriculture experts fundamentally changing the way plants are understood and food is grown. At AeroFarms, horticulture intersects with engineering, food safety, data science, and nutrition, giving us the unique capability to understand plant biology in a way that has never been understood. We utilize and have developed cutting-edge approaches to machine vision, machine learning, and IoT integration, bringing agriculture into the future at a rapid pace. From last year to this year, we have grown more than 500 million plants alone, and more importantly, we are able to harvest not just the plants but also the insights to ensure high-quality through-put all year round.
We are a mission-driven organization and a Certified B-Corporation. From Day One, AeroFarms was formed to have a positive impact in society and feed humanity keeping in mind all of the stakeholders from the environment to our community to our investors to our customers. We are passionate about helping not only our plants thrive but also our team members, and are committed to hiring locally and revitalizing local economies.
WHAT (OR WHO) INSPIRES YOU TO MAKE THIS IMPACT?
Over the last 40 years, we have lost 30% of our arable land, and globally, 70% of our fresh water goes to agriculture and 70% of our freshwater contamination comes from agriculture, leading to dead zones and dramatically harming natural ecosystems. In the United States, most of our fresh leafy greens supply comes from California or Arizona and must be transported over thousands of miles every day to reach its destination, emitting harmful carbon emissions and leading up to more than 75% food waste along the supply chain. An environmental champion and certified B corporation, AeroFarms® is on a mission to fundamentally change this paradigm and change the way food is grown and transported. We have built out the world’s largest indoor vertical farm this past year in Newark, NJ to do just that. We grow safe, healthy, and delicious food in a sustainable and socially responsible way, disintermediating the supply chain by enabling local commercial farming in cities. Because of our safe growing practices and the fact that we do not grow in soil or use any pesticides, we are able to have a ready-to-eat product that does not need any washing, significantly reducing our water usage. This is a transformational innovation for agriculture at large, as access to freshwater for growing food is one of the most pressing challenges of our time.
Moreover, our environmentally-controlled indoor farms can grow all year round independent of climate and weather events. This means we don’t have to worry about frost or crop protection, and can grow just about any crop by replicating their ideal environment in our aeroponic vertical farms. Food security and climate resiliency are also strongly connected, and by growing indoors, we are able to ensure fresh food production independent of climate or weather events and much more judicious use of our precious resources like water. We also look at climate resiliency from an energy standpoint and have invested in natural gas turbines to be able to generate our own clean energy independent of the grid. Finally, we are a strategic partner for 100 Resilient Cities initiative, an initiative of the Rockefeller Foundation to help cities worldwide build resilience to the growing social, economic and physical challenges of the 21st century including shocks and everyday stresses.
WHAT’S YOUR BIG DREAM FOR THE ORGANIZATION AND THE IMPACT YOU WANT TO MAKE?
There has never been a more exciting time to be part of an industry where catalytic organizations like AeroFarms are revolutionizing our food paradigm and solving some of the world’s biggest problems. This year, AeroFarms boldly evolved our mission statement to reflect our dream and to emphasize this commitment to do a lot more with a lot less, to lift the world’s understanding of plant biology, and to enable local food production at scale all over the world:
To grow the best plants possible for the betterment of humanity.
WHAT RESOURCES DO YOU NEED TO MAKE THOSE DREAMS COME TRUE?
We are a dynamic, multidisciplinary team of innovators on a fast path to changing the world. We are scaling fast and always looking to bring on more bold, creative, smart, passionate team members who run toward problems without hesitation and find creative solutions.
We are also looking for visionary investment partners to help us spread vertical agriculture and our technology around the world. If you want to finance a large-scale commercial farm, in any corner of the globe, we want to work with you. Your investment could be the next step toward making our technology a force for economic and environmental good in your community and all over this planet.
WHAT IS (OR HAS BEEN) YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE?
We are scaling fast, but are always looking for the right team members and partners to scale even faster. Agriculture is one of the most important industries in the world today. Yet, agriculture’s overwhelmingly positive impact on humanity also comes at a great cost that is rarely captured in the price you pay at the register. Traditional field agriculture is a larger contributor to global pollution than the oil and gas industry. This is hardly surprising given the negative externalities found in the supply chain of traditional agriculture.
For traditional field farming, overuse of pesticides and fertilizers, degradation of healthy soil, transporting water great distances to farms, shipping produce thousands of miles across the country where it often spoils before being eaten — these are all just some of the hidden environmental costs that are exacerbated as we hurtle towards 9.5 billion mouths to feed by 2050.
If we want to live on a healthy and thriving planet, we need to change the way we grow food, fast, and we need the help of the right partners to do that.
WHAT WORDS OF ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER LEADERS LOOKING TO MAKE AN IMPACT?
Now is the time to work together to use the best breakthrough technologies and the most impactful policy measures to do more with less so we can set our planet on a path to recovery — especially in agriculture. While agriculture is one of the most important industries in the world, it is also one of the largest contributors to water contamination and global pollution. Overuse of pesticides and fertilizers, degradation of healthy soil, water overuse, shipping produce thousands of miles across the country where it often spoils before being eaten — these are all just some of the hidden environmental costs that need to be addressed quickly.
There has never been a more exciting time to be part of an industry where catalytic organizations like AeroFarms are revolutionizing our food paradigm and solving some of the world’s biggest problems.
HOW CAN OTHERS SUPPORT YOU OR YOUR CAUSE?
We would encourage anyone who is committed to food security for the sake of future generations to join our movement. We invite you to follow AeroFarms’ story and to engage in our journey as we work towards a more sustainable future. You can support also AeroFarms and local food by purchasing our delicious local retail brand, Dream Greens.
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