Undoubtedly, one of the biggest global challenges we face is feeding a rapidly growing population over the next several decades. It is estimated that in 50 years, the world is expected to find at least two billion new residents added to the global population numbers. Urbanization is a big blame for this, bringing on a major lack of accessible and arable farming land, creating even further food scarcity.
Since becoming a global pandemic, COVID-19 has impacted global food systems, disrupting regional agricultural value chains, and threatening the household food security of even working families. As a result, producers, businesses, governments, and consumers today have a heightened awareness of food safety. With borders closed and quarantines in full effect again, supply chain and trade disruptions could restrict people’s access to sufficient and nutritious sources of food.
From Israel to Ukraine
Vertical agriculture and farming have become one of the hottest trends aiming to solve the potential food shortage scare. Israeli Agtech company Vertical Field has developed vertical urban farms and active living walls, which provide crucial solutions for smart cities and how they support the ever-growing population of hungry mouths.
“In times when most of the world’s population is aware of what they are eating, with increasing demand for healthier, more sustainable, and safer foods, agriculture needs to reinvent itself to be fit for purpose,” emphasizes Guy Elitzur, the company's CEO.
Last year, the company piloted urban farms next to several branches of the Rami Levy supermarkets in Israel, as well as EverGreen supermarkets and several restaurants in New York. In those branches, the supermarket grows, harvests, and sells leafy greens and herbs. This was just the start, as Rami Levy supermarkets took the pilot one step further and signed a multi-million dollar deal to implement the Vertical Field growing technique at dozens of the supermarket chain's locations.
After securing the Rami Levy deal, Vertical Field also announced that it would initiate a similar deployment of vertical farms, this time in the Ukraine. By teaming up with Moderntrendo S.R.O, which is one of the country's largest agricultural distributors, Vertical Field will begin an initial pilot with Varus - a Ukrainian supermarket chain with over 95 stores. The in-house farm pilot will begin early this year before expanding to other supermarket chains.
“We are extremely excited about our partnership with Moderntrendo S.R.O which has led to the project with Varus and will lead to more projects in the near future with more chains in Ukraine. One of the realizations that have surfaced during the COVID-19 crisis is the need to develop solutions that allow urban residents access to healthy food, with minimal human handling and without depending on transportation and shipping from remote locations. We are delighted to be able to provide- and expand access to- healthy, and high-quality vegetables grown right outside the consumer’s door," said Guy Elitzur, the CEO of Vertical Field.
The Vertical Field platform allows maximum yield from a small growing area. Its fast plant growth cycle provides a consistent and frequent supply of agricultural products to the supermarket’s customers, who can walk up to the vertical wall and purchase ultra fresh produce that is ready to eat.
Vertical Field's green solution provides customers a direct "farm-to-table" channel that not only helps lower prices, but also helps eliminate what has become a source for many environmental concerns along the process. Just imagine living in an apartment building that not only adds a more pleasant visual aspect to the urban landscape, but a wall where residents can literally reap the benefits, in form of fresh nutritional veggies.
"One of our main goals is to provide supermarkets, restaurants, hospitals or any other institution with the ability to grow their own produce and to provide it onsite right where it’s consumed,” notes Elitzur. "We see supermarkets struggling with the high costs of the supply chain and longer growing cycles dependent upon unpredictable weather conditions. With our solution, they never have to worry about the weather or external conditions. They can get a consistent in-house supply and reduce and monitor their inventory waste. We are offering a completely new business model in which they will not have distribution costs and at the same time create a unique shopping experience for their customers. The real challenge is to show corporations the economic and health benefits so they will be motivated to change the way they are operating."
The Israeli agtech startup has developed a number of vertical soil-based solutions that help cities and institutions worldwide green-up their spaces. The company's main product is a vertical, soil-based system for urban farming for both indoor and outdoor use. Vertical Field’s geoponic growing method prod uced a unique platform comprised of a container with built-in sensors, irrigation, and lighting, as well as in-house monitoring software that automatically manages crop growth cycles. By significantly minimizing human intervention, the system's AI farmers optimize the plant's growth cycle from seed to pick. It also ensures a sterile and kosher environment for fresh and healthy produce to grow pesticide-free all year long.
Vertical Field was founded in 2006 by VP Product & Project Design Guy Bar-Ness, who claims to be motivated by a green thumb, and ambition to bring sustainable nature-based solutions into the urban lifestyle.