The Future of Food is Local
AgTech Company CubicFarms has developed technologies for a better food supply chain
Remember those first few days and weeks of the pandemic when we feared that grocery stores might run out of food, as we simultaneously hoarded supplies in preparation for a lockdown? As borders closed and transportation slowed, issues of food security and the fragility of the world’s dependence on long chain agriculture were impossible to avoid.
CubicFarms, an agriculture technology (AgTech) company founded by farmers in Langely, British Columbia, is helping farmers and entrepreneurs around the world address these challenges with two distinct technologies. The CubicFarms system facilitates consistent, commercial-scale growth of produce, and the HydroGreen automated feed technology facilitates the growth of nutritious animal feed. Both systems can be used anywhere in the world every day of the year, and are developed for local and indoor use.
“Indoor farming, or vertical farming, is certainly gaining in popularity,” says CEO Dave Dinesen. “We are focused on supporting the farmer by automating indoor farming and localizing it at commercial scale, and to help them be successful locally. CubicFarms is the modern-day tractor of indoor farming.”
The CubicFarms system is automated and environment-controlled, allowing a variety of crops to grow consistently year-round no matter the external environmental conditions. The machines maximize yield per cubic foot, hence the name CubicFarms, and drastically reduce labor and energy costs.
The HydroGreen technology grows live green feed (plants) for animals and was designed to support beef and dairy livestock farmers. “Drought is making it challenging for farmers to reliably feed their herds consistently,” Dinesen says. “One of our systems replaces about 200 acres of grazing land and uses less than 10% of the water needed. We are able to reliably feed livestock 12 months a year with far better, healthier feed, and those animals can absorb all of that nutrition and produce much less methane.” The fully automated HydroGreen machine automatically seeds, waters, grows, and harvests green feed within just six days. The machine then feeds the animals before self-cleaning and restarting the process. “The sprouted six day-old plant that it feeds to the animals makes nutrition readily available,” Dinesen says. “Animals will perform better, live longer, and have more offspring. As a farmer, you’ll get more and better quality milk and beef, and have lower veterinarian costs. You’ll also produce meat and dairy much faster. It’s the right thing for the animal, the farm, the farmer, the environment, and the consumer.”
CubicFarms is a global leader in developing automated indoor agricultural technologies, and its technologies are proving to be a Canadian solution to global food industry challenges including food security, water usage, climate change and fragility in supply chains. There are currently CubicFarms systems in North America, Italy, Japan, and Australia. Dinesen says that what sets CubicFarms apart from other indoor farming systems is its focus on mechanization.
Dinesen says the target markets for their technologies are farmers that want to diversify their crops, and food groups that want to localize what they’ve been importing. “Maybe they want to take a small part of their land and put our technology on it, and now they can diversify and make the worst part of their land extremely productive 12 months a year,” Dinesen says. “If you already have farming knowledge, staff, customers, infrastructure, and land, why not diversify? Our technologies can help entrepreneurs or groups grow something locally that wasn’t possible before.”
As food producers, suppliers, and consumers around the world contend with what the future of food should look like in a post-pandemic world, technologies that strengthen the supply chain will certainly play a key role.
“Right now, we live in a world that relies on long chain agriculture,” Dinesen says. “An enormous amount of energy and emissions are used to get food to where people live, and that’s not sustainable.” Think about how much produce Canada imports from California— which is in a near-constant state of drought. When California exports produce, it is also exporting freshwater using a significant amount of greenhouse gases. Such practices are not sustainable for local food and agriculture industries or for the planet. Being able to localize commercial-scale food production, with technologies like the CubicFarms system, reduces shipping requirements and water usage, and is better for people and the planet.
“I think we’re in the right business at the right time in history,” Dinesen says. “A combination of the pandemic, climate change, and food security have driven the world to our doorstep.”
The Future of Food