How One Bold Company Is Rethinking The Way We Grow Vegetables

05.30.17 2 months ago

INFARM

Uproxx knows that science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines are driving the future of this planet forward. Every day, we see new ideas, fresh innovations, and bold trailblazers in these fields. Follow us this month as we highlight how STEM is shaping the culture of NOW.

The way we grow, process, consume, and think about food is always changing. The vast majority of the foods we eat in the US is comes from far away — shipped on carbon-burping trucks while requiring constant refrigeration. These foodstuffs are often grown in the most economically expedient way possible, with pesticides and growth agents that are worth being wary of. It’s not ideal. This coupled with a massive surge of people moving into cities means we’ve distanced ourselves dramatically from our food sources. We no longer know our food the way we used to.

This is a big deal. Feeding people in a big city is a monumental task. For the most part, livestock and agriculture have been exorcised from urban life. That means the food we eat comes with a certain number of ‘miles.’ It needs extra preserving and chemical or biological protections for elongated growth cycles and transport. This all affects the quality of our food, especially vegetables. And since we are unlikely to start flooding out of urban centers anytime soon to live in the country, we need to come up with better ways to grow our food in general and in cities specifically.

If human history has proven anything, however, it’s that when crises arise, innovation takes over. Already, we’re seeing new companies combining science and tech to move the needle in the right direction. Companies like INFARM — which builds stackable, hydroponic grow systems that can be installed directly into supermarkets, restaurants, and even homes (eventually).

INFARM is more than just a simple build out by a couple of hydroponics geeks, it’s a comprehensive system that utilizes plant scientists, roboticists, industrial designers, IT wizards, architects, futurists, and chefs to build a product that maximizes produce on an industrial scale, for the highest quality product grown in an expedient and carbon neutral way. From all sides, it sounds like a win.

Intrigued, we dropped into INFARM’s flagship facilities in a converted warehouse in Berlin to dig a little deeper into what’s going on. Co-founder Guy Golanska sat down with us at a huge wooden table in a side hall, under a wall of cascading plants. Golanska has only been in operation for four years, and it’s apparent that their growth is already spiking. Golanska told us how he and his brother Erez, along with their friend Osnat Michaeli, started out by building a small hydroponic based and LED driven system in their apartment. Golanksa was convinced that after “harvesting fresh vegetables on a snowy day in February” they had something the world needed. Golanksa relays that they knew the “micro-applications” of growing your own food since they already did it at home. Now it was time to investigate taking this sort of system to “a macro level to take urban farming further.” INFARM was born.

On the surface, this all seems extremely complex. We are not all horticulturalists. Much less, living in a city means that time is already stretched thin with commutes and so forth. What INFARM’s system present is a hands-off way to grow the best vegetables imaginable. INFARM builds the systems, installs them, and then provides onsite support to keep the operations up and running (including regular cleaning and maintenance). Their philosophy portends that if consumers see these operations in restaurants and grocery stores it will begin to pique the average person’s interest and eventually normalize the whole process. Meanwhile, chefs and grocers are gaining access to a system that grows far superior products than any import can match.

INFARM