Fatal Flaw with Vertical Farming

In June 2022, a vast new vertical farm opened on the outskirts of the town Bedford, UK. At a swanky opening event, members of the UK Parliament heard that the gleaming facility would one day produce 20 million plants annually. It was the latest opening for Infarm, a European vertical farming company that had raised over $600 million in venture capital funding, promising a future where vegetables are grown in high-tech warehouses stacked with LED lights rather than in open fields or greenhouses.

But now the future of the Bedford farm looks less than gleaming. On November 29, Infarm’s founders emailed its workforce to announce they were laying off “around 500 employees”—more than half of the workforce. The email detailed the firm’s plans to downsize its operations in the UK, France, and the Netherlands, and concentrate on countries where it had stronger links to retailers and a higher chance of eventually turning a profit. In September, Infarm had already laid off 50 employees, citing a need to reduce operating costs and focus on profitability.

Just six months ago, the vibe from Europe’s biggest vertical farm company was unrelentingly optimistic, so what changed? According to Cindy van Rijswick, a strategist at the Dutch research firm RaboResearch, several pressures that have always existed for vertical farms have really come to a head in 2022. For starters, the industry is extremely vulnerable to increases in electricity prices. Powering all of those plant-growing LEDs uses a lot of electricity, and between December 2020 and July 2022 consumer energy prices in the EU went up by nearly 58 percent. Eighteen months ago, European vertical farms might have spent around 25 percent of their operational costs on electricity, but that might have gone up to around 40 percent, estimates van Rijswick.

At the same time, investors are starting to tighten their belts and look for faster routes to profitability. Vertical farms are expensive to build compared with conventional outdoor farms. AppHarvest—a US-based firm that builds high-tech greenhouses—has struggled to find enough cash to fund its ongoing operations despite going public in 2021. In its latest quarterly report the company said there is “substantial doubt” about its ability to continue into the future.

The poor global financial outlook is also putting pressure on consumers. Most vertical farms grow herbs, shoots, and other leafy salad vegetables. Leafy greens are the industry’s go-to produce because they grow quickly under LEDs and have a short shelf life and premium price point. But with inflation high, consumers might prefer to forgo expensive vertically farmed herbs for something a little more budget-friendly. That’s particularly true for European vertical farms. “The European market is a difficult place for vertical farming because there’s so much competition from crops that are grown in fields or greenhouses,” says van Rijswick.

Vertical farms might stand a better chance of surviving if they look further afield, to countries where energy is cheap and growing crops outside is difficult. One obvious place is the Middle East. Gulf Cooperation Council countries—a group made up of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates—import around 85 percent of all their food and 56 percent of their vegetables. “When choosing new markets to expand to and establish a farm, we are going to look to places that have an increasing need for food production and food security,” Infarm founder Erez Galonska told the Vertical Farming Congress in Abu Dhabi on December 14. One of the world’s largest vertical farms opened earlier this year in Dubai. The facility is nearly three times the size of Infarm’s Bedford growing center and supplies leafy greens for the Emirates airline and local stores.

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Largest Vertical Farm: Dubai

Crop One Holdings and Emirates Flight Catering announced this week they opened Emirates Crop One, what they say is “the world’s largest vertical farm.”

The over 330,000-square-foot facility is located in Dubai, United Arab Emirates near Al Maktoum International Airport at Dubai World Central. It has the capacity to produce over 2 million pounds of leafy greens annually.

The facility got its start in 2018 when Crop One, an indoor vertical farming company, and Emirates Flight, the airline Emirates catering arm, signed a $40 million joint venture to build Emirates Crop One. AgFunder reported the $40 million was a majority debt funded.

Dubbed ECO 1, the farm uses 95% less water than field-grown produce and is guaranteed an output of three tons per day, according to the companies. Passengers on Emirates and other airlines will be able to eat the leafy greens, which include lettuces, arugula, mixed salad greens and spinach on their flights starting this month.

Those local to the United Arab Emirates will be able to buy the produce at stores under the Bustanica brand. The greens require no pre-washing and are grown without pesticides, herbicides or chemicals.

COP29 Climate Classroom

The Climate Classroom @COP27 is an innovative learning experience designed to help those attending get quickly up-to-speed on key climate issues. Throughout COP27, our team of experts will deliver free online and in-person 45-minute classes that expose and introduce learners to a range of climate change topics – allowing delegates, professionals, and other interested parties to follow and contribute to climate discussions.

Click here for further information

The Future of Building With Biodiversity Net Gain

Web Forum: Four different perspectives on biodiversity net gain and environmental legislation, sharing experiences, things to look out for and how to meet the potential challenges for specifiers, ecologists and consultants when working with BNG.
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“We’ll also cover why net gain is important and how it will shape the future of architecture and development, and an introduction to two new helpful resources to aid the process of building with BNG. A really useful session for building and landscape architects, consultants, ecologists and specifiers.

Joined by:
Ash Welch, GI and Biodiversity Specialist at AECOM
Bob Edmonds, Ecology Discipline Manager at UK Hab
Simon Hargreaves, Landscape Architect at AECOM

Jul 20, 2021 10:30 AM in London”

Register and/or see more see link https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/6116252181824/WN_HulM5nKKS0O4yI8YPdmfAw

 

 

Canada’s Friends of Science – Views on Climate Change

As open-minded sustainability professionals, it is important that we do not close our minds to alternative explanations and views on climate change. Friends of Science is a Canadian NGO, presenting an alternative viewpoint to the so-called ‘mainstream’ view on Climate Change.

“SIX THINGS EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE:

1.    The earth’s atmosphere is warming very slowly. Click here.
2.    The Sun causes climate change. Click here.
3.    Al Gore was wrong about CO2. Click here.
4.    Violent weather isn’t getting worse. Click here.
5.    It’s been hotter. Click here.
6.    Climate computer models are proven wrong. Click here.

This debate matters!  The science matters.

Please take time to review the many resources available …and ask why Canada has committed billions of dollars for carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions reduction (here) to fight a problem that doesn’t exist? CO2 emissions have only a tiny effect on temperatures, but strongly enhance plant growth.

See the FOS science summary, Global Warming or Cooling?, click here. ”

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UK power sector emissions fell 7.6 per cent during pandemic

The UK’s power-related carbon emissions fell 7.6 per cent over the past 12 months as coal power plants shuttered across the nation and demand for electricity nosedived during the country’s multiple lockdowns, according to data published this morning by Warstilla.

The reduction in emissions from the power sector places the UK firmly in the middle of a league table published this morning by the Finnish power technology company, which compares the carbon reduction performance of the continent’s 10 largest economies during the pandemic.

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NASA: Evidence for Climate Change

NASA states: “The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is extremely likely (greater than 95% probability) to be the result of human activity since the mid-20th century and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented over decades to millennia.

 

Earth-orbiting satellites and other technological advances have enabled scientists to see the big picture, collecting many different types of information about our planet and its climate on a global scale. This body of data, collected over many years, reveals the signals of a changing climate.

The heat-trapping nature of carbon dioxide and other gases was demonstrated in the mid-19th century. Their ability to affect the transfer of infrared energy through the atmosphere is the scientific basis of many instruments flown by NASA. There is no question that increased levels of greenhouse gases must cause Earth to warm in response.

Ice cores taken from Greenland, Antarctica, and tropical mountain glaciers show that Earth’s climate responds to changes in greenhouse gas levels. Ancient evidence can also be found in tree rings, ocean sediments, coral reefs, and layers of sedimentary rocks. This ancient, or paleoclimate, evidence reveals that current warming is occurring roughly ten times faster than the average rate of ice-age-recovery warming. Carbon dioxide from human activity is increasing more than 250 times faster than it did from natural sources after the last Ice Age.”

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The Future of Hydrogen Energy

At the request of the government of Japan under its G20 presidency, the International Energy Agency produced this landmark report to analyse the current state of play for hydrogen and to offer guidance on its future development.
The report finds that clean hydrogen is currently enjoying unprecedented political and business momentum, with the number of policies and projects around the world expanding rapidly. It concludes that now is the time to scale up technologies and bring down costs to allow hydrogen to become widely used. The pragmatic and actionable recommendations to governments and industry that are provided will make it possible to take full advantage of this increasing momentum.

Hydrogen and energy have a long shared history – powering the first internal combustion engines over 200 years ago to becoming an integral part of the modern refining industry. It is light, storable, energy-dense, and produces no direct emissions of pollutants or greenhouse gases. But for hydrogen to make a significant contribution to clean energy transitions, it needs to be adopted in sectors where it is almost completely absent, such as transport, buildings and power generation.

The Future of Hydrogen provides an extensive and independent survey of hydrogen that lays out where things stand now; the ways in which hydrogen can help to achieve a clean, secure and affordable energy future; and how we can go about realising its potential.

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