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4,000 heads oflettuceevery 10 days:Local Rootsshipping container farmsachieve that while using 99 percent lesswater. Today the LA-based company announced that it has reached cost parity with traditionalfarming and they plan to deploy over 100 farms in 2018. Inhabitat checked out their mobile TerraFarm in New York City and met with CEO Eric Ellestad and COO Matt Vail to learn more.
We visited Local Roots TerraFarm in Manhattan on a windy, chilly December day, but inside, green butterhead, red butterhead, green leaf, and red leaf lettuce was thriving. Vail and Ellestad started the company around four years ago on a mission to boost globalhealthand seeksustainabilityin farming. A few statistics that fuel their mission? For one, the United NationsFood and Agriculture Organizationestimatesagricultureis responsible for over 25 percent of globalgreenhouse gas emissions. And then, 52 percent of the food we do grow in America doesnt even make it to the consumer, according to Ellestad.
Related: 40-foot shipping container farm can grow 5 acres of food with 97% less water
Theirindoor farmsaddress those issues. They can deploy TerraFarms right at or near distribution centers. They design, build, deploy, and efficiently operate thevertical farms, and sell the food which they think is even better thanorganicproduce.
In outdoor farming, whether its organic or traditional, theres a lot of variability. Even across a field, theres not going to be uniform nutrient application or soil quality. In our environment were able to consistently create growing conditions that optimize for flavor and nutrient density, Ellestad told Inhabitat. We can select varietals that are naturally more nutritious, even ones that dont make sense to grow outdoors or are really susceptible to weather or have a short shelf life or break down in transit. We can bring those to market at scale with price parity and do that for some of the largest buyers.
They also see an accelerated growth rate in their TerraFarms. Ellestad said crops will grow two or three times as fast as they would in a field since they can create perfect growing conditions for a plant. They can reuse or recycle all of the water their biggest use of water is actually for cleaning the farms. And since they can control the environment, they can grow local food year-round.
Instead of being constrained to a growing season, youre growing fall, winter, summer, spring; in Saudi Arabia in the summer, in New York in December, he told Inhabitat. Were over 600 times more productive per square foot compared with an outdoor farm. So suddenly you can bring commercial-scale food production into urban areas and start to bring them closer to the point of consumption.
Solar panelsline the roof of the mobile TerraFarm in Manhattan. They could generate three kilowatts, enough to operate the farm in sunny California, according to Vail. The indoor farms can gooff-gridwith solar orwindand batteries. Local Roots tends to evaluate the local grid before deploying a farm to see if its clean or if they might want to add a source ofrenewable energy.
Now that theyve cracked the code for cost parity with traditional farming, Local Roots will be expanding in a big way in 2018. Theyll deploy their first projects outside of the Los Angeles area, and plan to hire around 150 people. Ellestad said theyre also launching their retail brand in a new way. They hope to be on the East Coast by the end of 2018.
But theyre already looking ahead to bringingnutritionto people around the world. Vail told Inhabitat, Were here with a mission to improve global health, so that means more than just LA and New York. It meansdeveloping countriesaround the world. It means the two billion people who today dont have access to the micronutrients they need to be healthy.
Local Roots is working with theWorld Food Program(WFP) to deploy and field test a few TerraFarms in 2018 in a developing nation to be determined. These farms will be off-grid and likely equipped with solar power, so they will be self-sustaining; locals will just need to bring in water.
Vail told Inhabitat, Well educate and train the community to operate the farms, and theyll then have ownership so they can feed their community perpetually in a really sustainable way with food thats healthy, delicious, and local.
Find out more about Local Rootson their website.
Images viaLacy Cookefor Inhabitat and courtesy of Local Roots
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