Another Step Towards a Future Where Food Insecurity is a Thing of the Past
Author: Erez Galonska, co-founder and CEO at Infarm
How can we feed the nine billion people living in 2050 while decoupling food production from ecosystem damage? How can we help future megacities produce food in a climate-resilient way and increase global food security? How can we grow more food in the next four decades than all farmers in history have harvested in the last eight thousand years?
Those were some of the big questions Osnat, Guy, and I asked ourselves in 2013 when we co-founded Infarm, and these are the questions we are asking in 2022. The difference is today, the answers are within reach.
In the last decade, we witnessed a tremendous consumer demand for fresh, nutritious, clean food. We also saw increased awareness of the link between climate change and conventional agriculture. The conflict in Ukraine, combined with catastrophic climatic shocks, increased global food insecurity, and, of course, the pandemic exposed the fragility of our food systems. All this strengthens our belief in vertical farming as a viable solution—an answer to the question: How to feed an ever-growing population efficiently, sustainably and in a climate-resilient way.
The vertical farming sector is highly dynamic. Numerous technological advancements in various fields, such as big data, AI, breeding and genetics, have allowed us to reduce our resource use and become increasingly efficient. It is also rapidly expanding. In 2015, the global vertical farming market was estimated at 1.15 billion USD. According to the latest projections, it is expected to reach 20.91 billion USD by 2029.
Founding a company at the dawn of an industry that aims to radically change the status quo is always challenging. But it is also a privilege since we had the honour to play a significant role in its evolution. And each step we made brought us a little bit closer to solving one of the most significant challenges humanity has ever faced. And that too in a climate-resilient fashion.
Infarm takes great pride in our product catalogue, which consists of more than 75 different varieties. However, as delicious and nutritious as our plants are, similar to the most commonly grown commercial vertical farming crops, Infarm's catalogue also focuses on microgreens, salads, herbs and leafy greens. And as much as I enjoy a freshly cut salad, the world needs more protein and calorie-dense foods.
To ensure global food security and provide countries with the opportunity to become self-sufficient in their food production, we need to step up. In a world beset by climate shocks that will likely worsen for a period, we need to create climate-resilient food production methods.
This is why today, I'm more than excited to announce we have made another step forward in our mission. It is time to reveal that Infarm is the first company to take up the challenge of growing wheat in an indoor farming facility - production unaffected by the climate.
The average yield of outdoor wheat production is about 4.5 tonnes per hectare per year. Infarm's first trial yielded 11.7 Kg per m2 per year. When projected at scale, this is the equivalent of 117 tonnes per hectare per year. Using a combination of improved genetics, cutting-edge hardware, and optimised growth environments, we expect to increase this record yield by an additional 50% in the coming years.
These are encouraging results, but we must remember it is an initial phase. Scaling this project and commercialising indoor-farmed wheat is a massive scientific and engineering challenge. In our view, to advance agriculture and humankind, we must take this challenge. We simply have no other choice.
We are now another step closer to feeding the world with indoor-farmed staple crops unaffected by the outdoor climate. To a reality where food production is no longer linked to biodiversity loss and doesn't contribute to water source contamination. To a future where food insecurity is a thing of the past.
I would like to use this opportunity to acknowledge our talented R&D Team for taking this huge step forward and constantly pushing the boundaries of agriculture.