“I think that the future of CEA will be about health and wellness, and being able to ensure nutrition,” says Tisha Livingston, CEO of Infinite Acres. “With CEA and technology, we can advance technology growth and control product diversification, such as working with seed breeders to get the right genetics to enhance more diverse crops that can be grown indoors.”
During an NYC AgTech Week panel, several attendants talked about the expected future growth of CEA, the policies used, and whether vertical farming produce would be available to all or not. Besides Tisha Livingston, joining the panel were Jan Westra, Strategic business developer at Priva, Jim Dennedy, the president and COO of Urban Gro, and leading the panel was Henry Gordon Smith, the founder and CEO of Agritecture.
Greatest growth areas in CEA in 5-10 years
Jim Dennedy said that some of the innovations in cannabis have allowed growers to get more margin per m2 out of their facility. “As it might be a profit driver for cannabis growers, the ag industry has been long characterized by high input costs and low margins. Innovation in cannabis translates well into how we can bring that innovation to the ag industry,” Jim Dennedy noted.
According to him, in the long term, food production is a significant opportunity and a great growth area. Jim thinks that indoor farming will be seeing significant growth specifically in Singapore, Southeast Asia, but also in the US and Europe.
Jan Westra observed that more governments are looking into food resilience for their country, especially countries like Singapore, the UAE, and the Caribbean, as they want to move away from shipping and flying in food to produce locally themselves.
Tisha Livingston left in the top, Henry Gordon-Smith right in the top, Jim Dennedy left at the bottom, and Jan Westra right at the bottom
Bringing cannabis innovations towards the food industry
Jim said that urban-gro sees that the longer growth opportunity is going to be in food. “The government has to invest in driving this growth that can drive down input costs, improving the unit economics.” In order to do so, Jim explained that partnerships have to be created and developed. Then, commercial industries can understand better how to capitalize that.
Jim continued that growing has to be sustainable and profitable, so help is needed. Since food is a long-term need, security-wise across the globe, there is a need to constantly invest in different cultivars. Once it is decided on what will be successful and what will not, it can be moved forward.
“We developed this science inside the cannabis culture and we think we can do the same thing for the food industry. Therefore we need to introduce indoor ag at a school level so people can learn about growing differently. Those types of initiatives will benefit the company and community much more over the upcoming years,” Jim added.
Is vertical farming for the top 20% of society or more personalized nutrition for all?
It has to be personalized nutrition for all, said Tisha. “Our price points in retailers are no different to products that are coming from California. We’re going to continue driving those down so that everybody can enjoy the produce,” she affirmed.
As she explained, Technology costs are coming down, efficiency is going up, and Infinite Acres is learning what truly impacts plants. “We need to drop these unit economics and pay back the capital investment and make sure that it’s available for everyone.”
Policies, the driver for CEA?
Jan explained that policies are a driver for more development as it is making it an ‘easier’ market. “In this way, more effort can be put into developing smarter systems and saving energy, than having to deal with governments and red flags,” he noted.
When the government is involved, it is possible to relay to universities and see what they can do to educate society that can cultivate themselves eventually. The government can tie bonds with universities, try to cut costs, and find more sustainable ways of farming. With funding, the next step can be taken much quicker, explained Jan.