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By Janet Morss
Environmentally sound farming for the betterment of humanity
AeroFarms is on a mission to transform agriculture with environmentally responsible farming that enables local production at scale and nourishes communities across the globe with safe, nutritious and delicious food.
The company has been leading the way for indoor vertical farming and agriculture, from genetics to post harvest. AeroFarms has grown more than 850 different varieties of crops, and the company now sees the potential to extend into other markets, such as pharmaceutical, cosmeceutical and nutraceutical. This broad vision is all part of the AeroFarms commitment to making the world a better place.
AeroFarms is currently developing of the world’s largest indoor vertical farm of its kind in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. The farm will be dedicated to state-of-the-art research and development (R&D) and commercialization of relevant local crops using AeroFarms’ expertise and proprietary indoor vertical farming technology.
As part of the Abu Dhabi project, AeroFarms expects to partner with major international companies, local universities, and AgTech startups to help solve some of the most pressing agriculture needs of our time. This work is all part of the humanitarian focus that pervades AeroFarms culture. The company collaborates on scientific research with several universities, along with the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, a nonprofit funded by the U.S. Farm Bill. At the same time, AeroFarms is an active participant in World Economic Forum groups and events, including its Circular Economy Taskforce.
Growing high-quality, nutritious leafy greens, herbs and more without sunlight, soil or pesticides — and with 95 percent less water than conventional field farming — requires tight control and close monitoring of operations using patented aeroponic technology and data-driven insights for a new level of precision.
“This is fully controlled agriculture,” says AeroFarms Co-Founder and CEO David Rosenberg. “Controlling the temperature and humidity to what the plants want allows us to manage the issue of seasonality in the field, and to grow 12 months a year, 365 days a year. The customer always gets fresh produce harvested at its peak flavor — great tasting, safe food.”
AeroFarms crops get an ideal amount of moisture and nutrients misted directly onto their roots, which dangle in a chamber below a growing cloth medium. They also get an ideal spectrum of LED lighting to match the plants’ needs throughout a 12- to 16-day growing cycle. AeroFarms’ precision growing algorithms allow just-in-time growing for its selling partners all year round. Once the plants reach maturity, they are harvested and packaged onsite and then distributed to local grocery stores. The close proximity of the farm to consumers greatly reduces transportation costs and spoilage.
Running this operation at scale takes a huge amount of technology, making AeroFarms a digital, data-driven company as well as an agricultural company. AeroFarms operations are fueled by proprietary growing systems, custom and open source software, computer vision systems, sensors on connected devices, and back-end servers that continuously collect and analyze images and data to inform the algorithms that help optimize the growing conditions for plants.
Working with Dell Technologies
“The complexity and intensity of the technology, and the integration of that technology, is high,” Rosenberg says. “And as such, it’s important to partner with the right players. We are constantly partnering with parties on improving technology.”
One of those partners is Dell Technologies. AeroFarms captures data from sensors located throughout the farm and leverages a wide range of Dell products and services, from Dell IoT Edge Gateways to Dell Latitude Rugged Tablets to Dell EMC PowerEdge servers. The team also leverages cloud resources, while continually growing its artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities.
“We have worked closely with Dell Technologies to develop the tools to wirelessly track and monitor our product throughout the growing process, from seed to package,” Rosenberg says. “Dell Technologies understands our IoT infrastructure and integration needs, and we see the opportunity to collaborate on additional solutions as we build our indoor vertical farms in major cities around the world.”