The Vertical Farming Industry Must Maintain 100% Clean Produce to Deliver on its Promise

Fifth Season

The field and production environments of soil-grown produce combined with a stretched supply chain have together created a system where the chance of contamination is way too high. Rightfully, shoppers are hesitant to purchase greens grown in Arizona or California (which still account for a great majority of the greens sold at retail today). In order for controlled environment agriculture to live up to its promise of food safety as a core competitive advantage, and capture more share of the market, we have to hold ourselves to the highest standard of safety.

Simply put, there’s no room for the complacency on food safety we’ve seen reported. As indoor growing experts we know that standing water, pests and other problems in indoor growing environments can lead to serious food safety risks. That’s why food safety was at the forefront of Fifth Season’s  farm design process. Now we’re seeing the benefits of that mindset: We’re an SQF-certified farm, and we just received an SQF Food Safety Code (formally known as SQF Level 2) audit score of 100 percent. One hundred percent SQF scores should be more commonplace in an industry where food safety is a top (if not the primary) consumer issue we’re solving for and a core competitive advantage. 

When we founded Fifth Season, reports of wide-spread food contamination were on the rise. We sought to tackle the tech that would integrate food safety processes into a fully automated system where we control every aspect of the environment, which is what we consider True CEA. Our farm is a smart manufacturing system where we lead with software principles, not farming principles (the terms “indoor agriculture” and “controlled environment agriculture” really don’t accurately describe our farming system). We did all of this hard work because we wanted to actually engineer for sanitation, biosecurity, and the resulting food safety, and it’s paying off. 

Here’s our blueprint for integrating food safety into indoor farming operations: 

1. Software principles, not farming principles, are our foundation. 

2. Whatever process we make, we can build software to run it, and whatever we run via software principles, we can execute with precision. 

3. This integration makes our farm and our 100% cleanliness score easily replicable, meaning any Fifth Season farm anywhere can get a 100% SQF (SQF level 2) score. 

4. We take a smart, structural food safety design that compartmentalizes and modularizes air and water to nearly eliminate and/or significantly mitigate pest and disease pressures, and increase resiliency compared to field and greenhouse-grown produce. 

5. For continuous improvement, we run weekly agile design sprints to re-evaluate and optimize the food safety processes in place. 

If you’re interested in learning more about how we mitigate food contamination risk, or if you’d like to collaborate on consumer education, please connect with us