What we’re doing in high-tech vertical farming is the next (and could be the last?) agricultural revolution. Yet, with about 15 years and billions of dollars invested by our predecessors, indoor-grown produce should represent much more of the fresh produce marketplace than it does today. As an industry, we’ve been due for a bit of a reckoning. The key to moving forward and moving the needle is full automation and super-stack software systems, and here’s why:
What we mean by True CEA
When factors like seasons and weather create the need for human intervention, or reliance on manual labor as part of the equation, can we really consider that environment truly controlled?
Conversely, super-stack encompasses front-end to back-end, to edge computing, to firmware and hardware. It’s applying every aspect of hardware and software engineering to the process – from end-to-end – as much as needed to solve the problems at each step. The effort of connecting high-tech solutions back into agriculture (originally part of the evolution of tech) is like a transcendence for our technology team.
In founding Fifth Season, we sought not only to build an automated grow platform that would produce tasty and nutritious greens, but also we chose to write all of our software in house. We did this hard work so that every facility we operate in the future is run on the same exact system, and produces the same exact yield and quality of crops, no matter where it’s located. This is why we often refer to our farm as a smart biological manufacturing system. It’s run by our custom software starting at the seeding process and continuing all the way through to supply chain management.
As a result, we can quickly put new farms into operation that will produce the same consistency in yield and quality using the same operations, and in turn achieve the same food safety standards of excellence. Vertical farming run by super-stack software controlling every aspect of the environment – or “True CEA” as we say – is how we’ll take advantage of the multitude of trends and tailwinds working in our favor today. These systems are the answer to how we’ll compete on cost with soil-grown produce while maintaining superior quality so that buyers and consumers are getting what they need, which is 100% clean, just-harvested freshness.
Why differentiating True CEA is important
This kind of food system change is a big goal and an equally big challenge. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, but at this moment we’re seeing a return of faith in the promise of indoor agriculture. We need to keep the momentum going, invest in the systems that have the technology and systems that create the right products at the right price for retailers, and infuse the marketplace with greens grown by the indoor growers following the principles that have moved from concepts to reality.