Undeterred from the lack of sleep on their red eye flight back from the Indoor Agriculture Conference in Las Vegas, Brad, Jon and Phil walked into the office last Thursday morning energized and inspired by their experiences and eager to share their learnings with the team. Last week you got a glimpse into our co-founder’s experiences with the growth of AgTech over the years, and now Brad is following up after the conference with his opinion on the current “State of the Industry”. And there’s more to come: next week we’ll be talking about what all this means to us here at Freight Farms...so stay tuned!
After spending two days in Las Vegas at the Indoor Ag Con, I’m blown away by the transformation of our industry in just one year. A simple recap would not do justice to all that should be addressed. It was a powerful collection of people, ideas, products and concepts. I had great interactions that both validated and shattered some of my assumptions and I know I’m not alone. It’s exciting to realize that the pace is not going to slow down and we must continue to push it.
Day One: “State of the Industry”
I had the pleasure to moderate the panel on Funding the Growth of the Industry with 3 great minds from AgFunder, NGEN Partners and LUFA Farms to discuss various structures, perspectives and theories to fuel the industry. As always, the funding panel drew quite a crowd, with about three quarters of the room openly looking for money for a project, farm or new product.
I was struck by the shift in attitude around the funding conversation from last year. The tone was decidedly more optimistic and the panel was able to have a lively discussion with our audience about funding and growing new ventures in Indoor Ag. That tone resonated with me throughout the day and sums up the current state of the industry. Last year, the conversations were less optimistic, and focused on incremental changes to the status quo and pushing back against new products and business models. I would argue this is a natural part of new industry growth and a great sign for everyone in the industry.
If asked to compare last year to this year:
2014- Structure focus was clearly on traditional greenhouse with forward looking statements around warehouse food production. The majority of my conversations were spent educating people on what Freight Farms is all about, defending the tech and getting “holes poked” in new business models. The vendor showcase was dominated by traditional greenhouse and the accompanying components.
2015- Structure focus was all indoor food production with equal parts warehouse, container and non-traditional greenhouses represented clearly. The majority of my conversations were spent identifying areas of collaboration and explaining how the Freight Farms business model works. The vendor showcase was clearly dominated by LED lighting companies.
The growth of the industry has allowed us to focus on what we’re doing to grow more local, pesticide-free food and create a general acceptance of hydroponics as a viable growing technique. I’m happy to see that the mainstream has all but stopped crediting each new product as the inventor of hydroponic growing, accepting that it’s a long established technique to grow food and has now focused on how all of us are working toward solving larger problems around food and water. Even more, the customer base is eager to educate themselves on new ways of farming, which is opening up a new era for indoor ag that is sure to change the way we all interact with our food.
This tremendous growth creates an incredible amount of opportunities for people to collaborate and work together towards a more sustainable and connected food system. And here at Freight Farms we want to make it as easy as possible for anyone to make an impact. Next week we’ll elaborate on what the growth of AgTech means to Freight Farms, and what we think is in store for the future.