Good Morning America visited FarmBox Foods’ headquarters to explain how businesses and nonprofits are using technology to sustainably grow food near the consumer year-round.Continue reading
Every consumer knows that sticker shock at the grocery store is now a common occurrence.
Food price increases this year are expected to far exceed those observed in 2020 and 2021, according to the USDA’s Economic Research Service.Continue reading
FarmBox Foods has established a set of core values to guide existing and future relationships, and created a tagline that captures the company’s focus on innovation.
FarmBox Foods, a Colorado-based manufacturer of high-tech container farms, has spent the last four years developing proof of concept in multiple industries by helping people grow gourmet mushrooms, leafy greens, culinary herbs, peppers, small tomatoes and trees. The mission-driven company is focused on helping partners feed those living in food deserts while empowering local communities and providing jobs and educational opportunities.
The new slogan, “Farm Anywhere,” encapsulates in two words what the tech-driven farms allow users to do, and the new tagline, “Innovating to Feed the World,” captures the spirit of FarmBox Foods’ goal of continued improvement in creating the tools that provide communities with a reliable source of nutrient-dense foods, regardless of the time of year or their location.
The company’s revised vision hones in on its core beliefs.
“We believe that no one should go hungry. We see a world where everyone has access to a sustainable source of healthy, locally grown food.”
FarmBox Foods’ newly established company values represent how the organization has conducted itself since its inception, and how it will operate going forward both internally and externally. The values are meant to convey to current and future partners what the company stands for and why.
● Relationships – The way we connect with people guides everything we do. Our values stem from our conscious commitment to help feed the world.
● Purpose – We intentionally operate with faith, selflessness, and service to others. We find meaning in making a difference in the world. Our foundation is built on our belief in “values over profit.”
● Loyalty – Our partners trust us to do the right thing every time. We show up in our relationships with integrity, vulnerability, and honesty.
● Compassion – We strive to understand the diverse needs and strengths of the communities we serve by continually learning, listening, practicing empathy, showing humility, and expressing gratitude.
● Determination – We are committed to customer focus through hard work and discipline. We’re passionate about helping others transform their communities through continuous innovation that creates a foundation for food security.
● Mentorship – We believe that trust, accountability, and initiative are pillars of a successful team. We make time for people and cultivate an environment where we’re all leaders and learners.
Go to www.FarmBoxFoods.com/company-values to learn more.
“The world is at a critical juncture.”
That’s the headline of an article about the state of food security and nutrition in the world. In painstaking detail, the Food and Agriculture Organization at the United Nations uses the article to describe how the number of people affected by hunger globally increased in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It estimates that between 720 million and 811 million people faced hunger. If you go with the middle of the projected range — around 768 million — 118 million more people faced hunger in 2020 than in 2019. How does this happen and what’s being done about it?
The Food and Agriculture Organization at the United Nations says that unless bold actions are taken to accelerate progress, especially actions to address major drivers of food insecurity and malnutrition and inequalities affecting access to food, hunger will not be eradicated by 2030, as the U.N. had hoped.
After remaining virtually unchanged from 2014 to 2019, the prevalence of undernourishment climbed to around 9.9 percent in 2020, from 8.4 percent a year earlier, the article says.
According to FoodBankNews.org, all of this activity is happening against a backdrop of heightened emphasis on nutrition from the USDA, which in mid-March released a report outlining its commitment to nutrition security (in addition to food security). The USDA noted the importance of nutrition in fighting diet-related disease, which is a leading cause of illness in the U.S., accounting for more than 600,000 deaths each year, or more than 40,000 each month.
Sadly, the pandemic continues to expose weaknesses in our food systems, especially when it comes to access. New farming practices, including controlled-environment agriculture, are increasingly being recognized as a potential solution to fill the gaps and avoid supply chain delays entirely.
Strategically placing container farms in and around population centers could have a dramatic effect on providing a sustainable and secure source of nutrient-rich food. These farms can produce 200-300 pounds of fresh food weekly and help feed people in marginalized communities. They can also be used to help train the next generation of urban farmers and create jobs, providing ancillary benefits that can reverberate for years to come.
We’re incredibly proud to announce that our CEO, Rusty Walker, is among the honorees for the Who’s Who in Agriculture awards for 2022. The annual award from the Denver Business Journal and Colorado Farm Bureau recognizes an industry leader’s accomplishments in helping to put food on our plates and generate nearly $50 billion in collective economic activity each year.
Rusty is featured in the April 1 edition of the Denver Business Journal and was honored during a ceremony on March 31 at Kevin Taylor’s at the Opera House in Denver, alongside other deserving recipients.
Probably the coolest thing about this recognition is that two separate organizations decided to nominate Rusty unprompted. His influence and leadership are a big part of our success story, and we’re glad that people outside of the company see that.
Read more about Rusty Walker here
Proudest accomplishment of the past year?
Helping to feed people in areas of need, because no one should go hungry. I’m also proud of helping build a team at FarmBox that truly believes in our mission of empowering communities to grow their own food.
What impact has the pandemic had on your area of focus?
Sourcing of materials has become more challenging, but the supply chain disruption has thrust local farming into the spotlight in a good way. Hyperlocal farming provides a secure source of food near the consumer without concern for delays related to supply chain issues. The disruption has brought to everyone’s attention how important having decentralized food production is. This disruption provides a unique opportunity for us to focus on a product that can have a meaningful impact. Our farms have come about at an opportune time to bring attention to just how vulnerable we were as a society.
What would you say is the biggest challenge Colorado’s agricultural industry faces today?
Drought conditions would have to be up there. It’s become so much harder for farms to thrive because of weather and climate impacts. Water shortages are a real thing, and we have something that can be part of the solution. Colorado is in a precarious position for a number of reasons and our farms enable people to conserve this important resource. We can help farmers who are struggling with uncertainty and provide a reliable, secure source of nutritious food.
What could the state of Colorado do better to fix it?
Incentivize alternative methods of farming that decrease risk of crop loss, reduce water usage, and have less impact on the environment. We have been embraced by the farming community because we provide a lifeline that enables farmers and ranchers to grow food year-round, and especially during times in which weather negatively affects crop yields. What we’re up against is out of our control, but we provide the ability to focus on things that are in our control.
What’s one thing you wish Coloradans understood about your job that most don’t?
Even though we’re a for-profit company, we’re very much a mission-driven organization. That means people and their right to food security doesn’t get lost in the decision-making process. We’re very intentional about how we have grown, and how we operate, and that’s been key to our success. There are few industries that controlled-environment agriculture doesn’t fit into, and so it’s figuring out where we can have the most impact.
When I was asked to be CEO, it was a blessing. It was taking on the responsibility of carrying on that blessing and all of its challenges, and we have a purpose-driven mission that’s not taken lightly. Anytime you have an opportunity to carry out a purpose like this, you have to know that this is much bigger than myself or this company, because we have something that can have a huge effect on the world. The importance of that is not lost on me or the FarmBox team.
What trends are you watching in your field in 2022?
We try to take a broad look at trends related to how impactful our farms are in the communities that our farms serve. It’s measuring the impact of our farms in communities where they’re placed, and how that affects those communities, coordinating with local organizations, including 501c3s, in getting these farms where they need to go.
What advice do you have for young professionals in your field?
Continue exploring ways to do more with less by using science and tech to solve concrete problems facing the world. Continued improvement is part of our culture, and I find that’s the best way to go about your professional and personal life. I also think you should never go it alone. You should work on being a team player and surround yourself with people who want to achieve a goal together, and go at it in a selfless way.
What do you do in your free time?
I love to spend time with my family, read, exercise, golf and just enjoy life in Colorado.
Staff spotlight - Amanda Curtis
Spending her formative years on a ranch outside of Sedalia helped prepare Amanda Curtis for her role at FarmBox Foods.
“I knew I wanted to do something with plants and the environment. I knew that was my calling,” she says.
Amanda has particular interest in medicinal plants, an area she wants to help FarmBox Foods build out in the future. She wants to help teach people about the medicinal properties of plants that have been used for millennia to treat a variety of illnesses. After she receives her master gardening certification, Amanda also plans to learn more about the nutritional applications of mushrooms.
“Ultimately, in the long run, I just want to make an impact on the planet somehow, and show people that it’s not that hard to grow stuff,” said Amanda, who’s favorite part of her job at FarmBox Foods is having the freedom to try new things.
When she’s not at work, Amanda likes to read, work out, cook, paint, draw, work with animals, and conduct independent studies on topics she finds interesting. Although she comes from a family with a rich agricultural history, Amanda has passions that go beyond the ranch; she’s trained in jiujitsu and muay Thai, massage therapy and she looks forward to a career based in continued learning.
Farming Solutions are needed – It seems every day you come across a news story that paints a very bleak future for traditional farming and the consumers who benefit from it.
We’ll briefly explore the many challenges facing the agricultural industry, but we’ll also posit some potential ways for farming operations large and small to adapt to changing times and conditions.
Shifting climate patterns are making it vastly more difficult to predict whether a crop will make it to harvest. Heat waves, hail storms, cold snaps and floods have become more pervasive and intense in recent years. Even crops that may not be directly affected by catastrophes, like the severe drought currently gripping the western portion of the U.S., are being indirectly impacted by residual factors, like smoke from wildfires.
We’re also facing other crippling issues without a foreseeable fix. Supply chains that support agriculture have been stretched to their limit since the beginning of the pandemic for a variety of reasons, including transportation availability, labor shortages, and associated delays affecting raw material sourcing. And the skyrocketing cost of fertilizer is further complicating matters for traditional farming operations and having an outsized impact on already-thin profit margins.
But what if there was a way to circumvent these issues using innovations in agtech? It sounds impossible, and while it comes with its own set of challenges, indoor growing, especially in urban areas, could be a big part of the answer going forward.
Science and tech have come a long way in the last decade (hello, sensor technology!), allowing growers to do much more with much less in a smaller footprint. And hyperlocal farming means produce grows near the consumer, eliminating supply chain-related woes. Instead of spending the first half of its shelf life in transit, veggies get to the end user much quicker, resulting in less food waste. Local growing also reduces the need to burn fossil fuels to get food to its destination, and empowers communities to gain more control over their own food supply.
It’s hard to put a value on security and reliability, and we certainly won’t attempt to, but controlled-environment agriculture allows people to harvest large yields year-round without external variables getting in the way. There’s also no need for fertilizers or pesticides, which takes possible contamination of drinking water out of the equation.
The practice is gaining momentum worldwide and already having an impact on sourcing for grocery chains, hotels, hospitals, restaurants and food banks. Likewise, farmers are embracing the technology because it provides a security blanket in uncertain times.
It’s a mix of professional experience and personal values that brought Joseph Cammack to FarmBox Foods.
As a teen, Joseph took a job on a farm in eastern Washington and quickly learned the value of hard work while growing and harvesting wheat, barley and garbanzo beans. His interest in farming and the impact of nutritious food on the overall quality of life for people worldwide is in lockstep with FarmBox Foods’ mission of providing a secure source of food to all, regardless of their circumstances.
Joseph’s strong entrepreneurial spirit manifested itself early in life; he earned money running lemonade stands and mowing lawns as a kid. Later, while pursuing a degree in business management with a double emphasis in entrepreneurship and supply chain management at Brigham Young University-Idaho, he launched his own startup and helped grow it into the successful company it is today. Joseph even created a program that supports up-and-coming entrepreneurs and gives them the ability to test the efficacy of their business model before investing significant time and money.
His experience at small, large and medium-sized businesses has provided valuable insight into what drives a company’s success. It also helped him determine where to aim his skills while helping to implement Centura Health’s food security initiatives in Colorado. Joseph came to the FarmBox Foods team in March 2022 as executive vice president, and is helping further expand the reach of the tools that provide farm-fresh food to communities in need.
“It’s mission-driven, and that’s what really drove me to pursue the opportunity to join the team,” he said. “I’m always looking for a purpose greater than myself.”
When he’s not at work, the married father of two children plays basketball, hunts and goes on family hikes. He is also an avid reader and a movie buff with an affinity for action and sci-fi flicks.
Drought, flood impacts create uncertainty for food producers
An alarming pattern has emerged in the farming industry over the last two decades, and experts believe the impact on food production won’t relent anytime soon.
A recent analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that payouts to U.S. farmers for crops destroyed by droughts and flooding climbed by more than 340% between 1995 and 2020. During that time period, farmers received over $143.5 billion in federal crop insurance payments, according to the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit that analyzes research data and spotlights breakthrough findings to inform decisions that govern everyday life.
While the conditions threaten the current livelihoods of farmers across the country, there are also intangible, permanent effects that can’t be ignored, such as the exodus of families who have been farming for decades and, in some cases, centuries. They’re simply giving up due to variables that are beyond their control.
The EWG points out that while crop insurance provides a crucial safety net for farmers, the program is doing little to mitigate climate-related risks. Taxpayers pick up about 60% of premiums, which means farmers cover the other 40% to get a crop insurance policy. EWG says the “costs are expected to go up even more, as climate change causes even more unpredictable weather conditions,” according to an article on CommonDreams.org.
This inevitability has decision-makers at the federal and state level considering drastic alternative measures, especially ones that help farmers adapt to changing conditions, enabling them to produce crops regularly without external factors.
One of those solutions is farming in controlled environments that eliminate outside impacts and promise reliable yields. Shipping containers are being repurposed and outfitted with a network of sensors and high-tech systems that regulate temperature, humidity, nutrient concentrations, watering and lighting. They enable farmers to grow food year-round — regardless of weather or climate — and drastically reduce the amount of water needed to grow crops, because the water is recycled and filtered and not lost to evaporation or transpiration.
“We see ourselves not as a replacement for traditional farming, but rather a tool that allows farmers to have that steady source of income throughout the year, without the stress,” said Rusty Walker, CEO of a Colorado-based company called FarmBox Foods, which designs, manufactures and sells enclosed hydroponic farms.
The containerized farms are also a critical element for crop production on islands, which currently import the vast majority of their food. The automated farms essentially add acreage to an island for the purpose of food production, cutting out potential supply chain issues and shipping costs that inflate food prices.
As Congress develops a new farm bill in 2023, the EWG is calling on lawmakers to consider focusing on “how to effectively fund farm programs so that farmers can adapt to and fight the climate crisis.”
FarmBox Foods is developing a hydroponic fodder farm that will be sold beginning this year. It will produce roughly 1,000 pounds of fodder per day.Continue reading