Feeding the World

Thursday, March 9, 2017
By: David Rosenberg, AeroFarms, and Agvocate, CEO and co-founder
David Rosenberg - AgVocacy Forum

In the world of food, you’re bound to hear the number 9 billion a lot. It probably needs no explanation. But just in case, the global population is predicted to exceed 9 billion by the year 2050. That number is then often followed by a discussion of how are we going to produce enough food for all of those mouths, and what kind of shape will our natural resources be in when we do? In many ways, what we do at AeroFarms is a response to that very quandary.


At AeroFarms, we grow food in reclaimed industrial space using aeroponics. Leafy greens germinate and grow in our patented growing cloths with the pristine leaves stretching above and roots below, intermittently misted with water and nutrition.


To make this equation produce perfect leafy greens every harvest, we have assembled a team of world-class plant biologists and data scientists. By combining these two disciplines, we have created a system of sensors that processes 30,000 data points per harvest. We have 3D models of each green we grow. But all of this data would be useless without a method of reacting to it. That’s where our engineers come in. They have tailored the original design of our Chief Science Officer Dr. Ed Harwood to be able to adjust the growing environment to the whims and quirks of individual species.


130 x productivityThe point of all this isn’t just to increase yields or grow faster — though we are 130x more productive than a conventional farm per square foot, and we have nearly cut traditional crop cycles in half. The most important quality we use all of this technology to master is taste. Because if it doesn’t taste good, there’s no 9 billion people who will eat it, let alone the families of our hometown of Newark, New Jersey.


But there’s a major part of the perfect greens equation that we have yet to mention – genetics. We have already grown over 250 different leafy greens varieties in our system, and we have discovered the best crops and the best seeds currently on the market. But, we make a rule never to be constrained by what’s been done before. We see immense possibilities in the field of seed breeding. If our unique, paradigm-shifting ability to tailor the growing environment were met with a precisely bred seed, optimized for indoor growing, the results could be even more revolutionary.


You can never completely remove the inherently unpredictable nature of biology, but with more than 9 billion mouths to feed, we feel a pressing need to get as close as we can.


The world population is expected to reach nearly 9.6 billion by 2050, and producing enough healthy and nutritious food for all will require collaboration and engagement across the ag sector and beyond.  It is important for everyone who plays a role in this important work to #AgVocate by sharing their story. Be sure to check out tomorrow’s blog post for insights from another one of our AgVocates.

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