April 2016 marked the 4th Annual Indoor Ag Con in Las Vegas, NV.
In addition to a great meeting of Upstart Farmers, we got a very insightful look at all parts of the indoor agriculture industry, how far it’s come in the last year, and where it’s headed.
One thing is certain...
Indoor ag is exploding.
There are more people than ever getting into the indoor agriculture industry.
For one, there's a growing concern about food system insecurity and innovative minds are beginning to think about using technology to grow food in cities and food-insecure places around the globe. This might sound strange to some who live in places of abundance sunshine and good soil, but that's just not a reality in places like Northern Canada or deep in the concrete jungles of our nation's cities where environmental constraints and resource scarcity make conventional growing cost prohibitive.
Another reason for this rapid growth is the exploding interest in urban farming and growing fresher food closer to where it's sold. New and experienced growers alike are jumping in with both feet to meet the overwhelming demand for fresh, local food.
But this is just the beginning.
>>Learn More: The Ultimate Guide to Starting a Farm.
New faces and tech in the indoor ag industry.
This year, over 600 people attended the annual convention. Included in this group were some of the brightest minds in agriculture technology demonstrating the amazing things they're doing in their particular fields. There were also aspiring farmers and even buyers looking to meet the people behind some of their favorite products.
With keynotes and panel discussions on everything from farming in modular containers to full farm automation, conference attendees were inundated with new ideas to take back to their own operations.
Gathering so many brilliant minds in the same location caused Las Vegas to transform into an indoor agriculture think tank for the weekend. The levels of innovation and motivation were off the charts.
Still, the amount of growth potential remaining in the industry is tremendous. It's truly an amazing time to be part of the alternative agriculture industry.
Here's a quick recap video of Indoor Ag Con.
So why are we excited to be part of the indoor ag industry? Well here's a few reasons.
1. We're taking major steps towards a decentralized food system.
Our massive, centralized food system is broken.
We need new motivated minds armed with innovative, yet practical technology to build a new food economy; one based on trust and transparency between farmer and consumer. To do so requires empowering farmers of all sizes in all cities around the country. We fundamentally believe that "small farmers" are the future of our food system and we're so excited to see how new technology is helping these growers win in their local markets.
Ultimately, food distribution is at the core of everything we do, from creating ZipGrow technology, to personally helping our customers, to filling up Upstart University with helpful information.
Every local farmer, every youth training program, and every hobbyist is contributing to local food production. They're enabling themselves and their communities to be less dependent on convoluted transport systems. It just makes sense to create distribution by giving power to growers!
To create that power in the hands of the grower, we give people an achievable way to start farms. We work hard every day, challenging ourselves and our teammates, to make that happen.
So when we see the results of farm startups and their success - not just in our ballpark but all around us the industry - we get really happy.
2) There are more people getting in the game than ever.
So many new players are entering the local food game and doing really creative, wonderful things with it.
Take Mitch Hagney (who we interviewed at Indoor Ag Con). Mitch runs a farm called Local Sprouts down in San Antonio. Not only is the way that he's producing unique, but his vision is contagious and his business model is fresh.
Mitch is using his farm's momentum to inspire people around him. He's leveraging his farms presence in San Antonio to diversify revenue streams and build relationships. All in all, Mitch is showing that you don't have to be a subsidized Goliath farm to make a big difference.
3) There are more technology tools for farmers than ever before.
One of our favorite things to see at Indoor Ag Con was AutoGrow's brand-new product, RoomBoss. Being users of AutoGrow's products for several years now, and having seen many small farmers use AutoGrow to run their small farms more smoothly and efficiently, we've had a taste of the power of automation.
Now AutoGrow is expanding the limits of automated dosing for hydroponic farms. RoomBoss can control 8 different zones or rooms separately of each other. This means that farmers can grow a diversity of crops at their ideal conditions, improving both their product offering and quality with one product.
And AutoGrow is only one of dozens of companies with products that are opening new doors to farmers. Altogether, they're making it clear: now is the time to start an indoor farm.
More growth in store for the indoor ag industry.
The indoor ag industry is moving fast and growing exponentially. With more innovative tech on the market, there are more players in the game than ever before doing big things to move the industry forward.
One thing that aspiring growers will be excited about is that there's still so much room to grow. The urban agriculture scene is becoming more refined and growers are taking a hard look at what really goes into building not just sustainable farms, but economically sustainable businesses.
The good news for these new growers is that there are tools available to help them make smarter decisions and build better businesses. Tools like Upstart University are helping modern growers use actionable data to make starting a farm in the 21st century much more manageable.