Flat Rock, N.C. – We took a moment to sit down with Ed McCammon, the CEO of AgriFacture. AgriFacture is a family-run business dedicated to designing new methods of agriculture that will replace traditional means of farming with highly efficient, fully-automated vertical farms.
Here is what Ed had to say about AgriFacture and vertical farming.
1. How is your business model different than all of the other vertical farms out there?
Ed: The AgriFacture model seeks to create a truly closed loop system for agricultural production, packaging, and distribution. There is a need in our communities for fresh, local food that has NOT spent 15 days on the road before it reaches consumers. AgriFacture will grow, harvest, sort, clean, and package its products in one facility that controls and facilitates distribution of its fresh produce to restaurants, groceries, and consumers.
The facilities will be fully automated and produce a higher yield than traditional farming and vertical farms currently in existence.
2. AgriFacture’s first product to hit the market is its Better Shrooms mushrooms. Are mushrooms grown in vertical farming environments the same quality as traditionally grown mushrooms?
Mushrooms grown in vertical farming environments are better – hence the name Better Shrooms – and of a higher quality than traditionally foraged mushrooms. The growing environment is controlled, which means external variables such as contamination, disease, pests, or weather cannot affect the production of mushrooms grown in an AgriFacture facility. In addition, because the mushrooms are harvested and packaged in the same facility in which they are grown, they reach the consumer quicker than traditionally foraged mushrooms. This results in the mushrooms being of better quality!
3. Does produce grown in vertical farming environments taste any different?
Yes, because the growth medium is of highest quality, is sterilized to remove any possible contamination, and the nutrients provided are the purest elements needed for optimal nutrition. It therefore produces a better taste – a better product – than traditional foraged mushrooms found out in the wild.
4. Will AgriFacture produce be organic? Why or why not?
Better than organic, because we don’t use pesticides or any other chemicals or GMOs in any of our processes from seed to harvest. In fact, “organic” is a blanket term used for food grown without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or other artificial agents. At AgriFacture, our produce is free of chemicals, the growth medium is sterilized, the air is filtered, the water is purified to 0ppm, and temperature and lighting are provided for maximum product production. Agrifacture grows pure produce that far exceeds anything “organic”.
5. Will vertical farms like AgriFacture put traditional farmers out of business?
There will be a place for traditional farmers for certain crops and we value the impact that these farmers have on our country, our economy, and our food. However, we also see a new future that calls for innovative measures to deliver high quality food that is grown, packaged, and distributed locally without using valuable land or water resources.
AgriFacture will enable any community to have fresh, local vegetables, mushrooms, and herbs grown on less land, in a controlled environment within a 100-mile radius of consumption. Our model will provide healthier and more convenient means for consumers to have access to local produce.
6. Why do you plan to automate farming rather than hire employees?
We want to remove mundane physical labor from the workplace, put in machines, and elevate humanity up to a higher level of education, training, and capabilities. We are not replacing them, we are upgrading them, moving them to the next level in the evolutionary chain of engineering.
AgriFacture is the place for engineers, horticulturists, logistics managers, and sales teams who contribute to producing its high quality produce.
We will automate the planting and harvesting portion of the process to make it more efficient, reduce the risk of contamination and increase the number of crops that can be planted and harvested, which means fresher, local produce available to the community every day of the year.
7. How much square footage of land is used as compared to traditional farming?
In current vertical and hydroponic indoor farms, one acre is equivalent to about 4 to 6 acres of traditional farmland. However, to compete directly with traditional farming, urban farmers must produce a minimum of 7 times the amount a traditional farm does per square foot.
Agrifacture’s vertical farming methodologies set a new standard for urban farming. AgriFacture methodologies and processes increases that 7:1 ratio by a factor of 3, through horizontal compression and vertical density – producing 21 times more per square foot than traditional farms or foraging.
8. What do you do with waste from the produce grown?
In addition to other innovations, AgriFacture is unique in that it strives for zero-waste. We reuse and repurpose our waste in sustainable ways. After the harvest, there are 3 options for leftover waste material:
- Sterilize the waste product, bag it, and sell it as top soil.
- Reuse 20% in the next batch of growth medium.
- Sterilize, dry, pelletize and use as fuel in a biomass burner to provide the necessary energy for heating the colonization and germination rooms in our facility.
Everything we do is earth-friendly – even our waste is clean. All waste products are biodegradable, and there are no synthetics in any of the growth medium processes.
9. Where will your water source come from?
Our current facility pulls water from an underground well, which is then purified in our on-site water purification system to reach 0 ppm – providing water in its cleanest, purest form.
10. How close is your facility to being in full production?
As of February 2020, we are positioned to produce 10+ pounds of mushrooms a day. We will continue to increase our production on a monthly basis, and are projecting to reach capacity of this facility to produce 160 pounds per day within the next 12 months.
Future expansion of AgriFacture facilities and systems will be applied to produce other vegetables and herbs. These facilities will be conveniently positioned close to large, metropolitan areas – providing the ability to feed millions of people. This is the future of vertical farming, and farming as a whole.
About Ed McCammon, CEO
Leaving a successful career in the Nuclear Industry, Ed began a new career investing in private technology companies. In 2008, Ed underwrote the development of the principal research that constitutes AgriFacture today.
AgriFacture is a family-owned business that has spent the last decade developing cutting-edge methodologies to change the entire dynamics of agriculture. AgriFacture’s model of controlled environmental agriculture allows consumers to enjoy local, fresh, pesticide-free, nutrient-rich vegetables, fruits, mushrooms and herbs year-round, regardless of where they live.
AgriFacture currently utilizes a 10,000-square-foot research and development facility in Flat Rock, NC and plans to build an even larger 40,000-square-foot indoor farm. Unlike other commercial vertical farms on the market today, AgriFacture changes the dynamic by utilizing robotics and automation to control the entire process – from seed to fork.