Edible Beats Announces Hydroponic BeatBox Farms At Vital Root

Edible Beats, the Denver-based restaurant group that includes Linger, Root Down, Vital Root, Ophelia’s and El Five, has announced the installation of a Hydroponic FarmBox by Colorado-based FarmBox Foods in the backyard of their plant-based Denver staple, Vital Root.

Edible Beats, the 100% Employee-Owned Denver-based restaurant group founded by Chef Justin Cucci, has announced the installation of a Hydroponic FarmBox by Colorado-based FarmBox Foods in the backyard of their plant-based Denver staple, Vital Root.

Coined BeatBox Farms, the hydroponic farm fits perfectly into the Edible Beats family, where a love of music and sustainability are at the forefront of every initiative. This specific initiative is a step towards providing all of their restaurants, including Root Down, Vital Root, Linger, El Five and Ophelia’s with their own homegrown fresh produce, adding to their over 50% locally sourced ingredients within Colorado. Embedded in the fabric of Edible Beats restaurants are their commitment to sustainability and waste reduction. From 100% wind-powered buildings, to compostable storage bags and gloves, BeatBox Farms is another step towards reducing packaging waste and lowering their carbon footprint, as it eliminates the shipping of the produce.

Within the 320-square-foot Vertical Hydroponic Farm (VHF), plants will go from seed to harvest and can yield the equivalent of up to 2.5 acres of farmland annually, with the capability to grow 7,800 plants at once. Expecting to harvest 120 lbs of veggies and greens weekly, they will be growing a variety of produce: Red Russian Kale, Runaway Arugula, Tat Soi, Hon Soi, Wasabina Mustard Greens, Scarlet Frills Purple Mustard Greens, Watercress, Basil, Cilantro and Dill. And by filtering and recycling water, BeatBox Farms uses 99% less water than traditional farms, and is committed to being pesticide-free, insecticide-free and fertilizer-free. All factors that allow Edible Beats to avoid groundwater contamination.

At the helm, Edible Beats FarmBox Cultivator and AgriCULTURist, Cori Hunt has had a rich history in the culinary and farming world. After working in Central Illinois to start the first Farm/Restaurant collaboration, Epiphany Farms, Cori says, “I have witnessed the better path first hand. Now I strive to help spread the word of this better path and align myself with likeminded people and groups. That led me to Edible Beats, who have been on the frontlines of this concept in Denver since the conception of Root Down.”

With this kind of local farming, the self contained vertical hydroponic grow system produces 10x more volume year round then the equivalent size of a traditional farm, with a daily consumption of roughly $20 in energy, and only 4 gallons of water per day. Cori shares, “Together we are attempting yet again to break as many molds as possible, pick up the pieces and build a better future.” As a leader in farm-to-table dining, Chef/Founder Justin Cucci has pioneered a culture of sustainability over the years with practices that go well beyond the kitchen. “I really wanted to have a sustainable culture for the employees,” explained Cucci.

This year, Edible beats joined a small handful of restaurants in the country, implementing a pioneering, self-funded 100% Employee Stock Ownership Plan. Rarely seen in the restaurant industry, his 350+ Edible Beats employees will all share in the long-term financial worth of the company, which Cucci calls “the quintessential win-win.”

Meeting Food Production Challenges in the Middle East Head On

Where extreme heat, water scarcity, and limited arable land pose challenges for traditional farming methods, indoor farming presents opportunities for sustainable agriculture and food production. That includes countries like In Saudi Arabia.

One of the biggest advantages of indoor farming in Saudi Arabia is the ability to grow crops year-round, regardless of the outdoor climate. With controlled environments, crops can be grown without being dependent on external weather conditions, making it possible to cultivate a wide variety of crops consistently throughout the year. This can help reduce the country’s reliance on imported fruits and vegetables and increase local food production.

Water scarcity is a critical issue in Saudi Arabia, as the country has been challenged by limited freshwater resources for decades. Indoor farming techniques such as hydroponics and aeroponics, which use significantly less water when compared to traditional soil-based farming, can be particularly advantageous in a water-scarce environment. These methods allow for precise control over water usage, leading to higher water-use efficiency and reduced water waste.

Another benefit of indoor farming in places like Saudi Arabia is the ability to cultivate crops in a pesticide-free environment. By using controlled environments, pests and diseases can be minimized or eliminated without the need for chemical pesticides, reducing the reliance on harmful chemicals and resulting in cleaner, healthier produce.

Indoor farming can also help mitigate the challenges of limited arable land in Saudi Arabia. With vertical farming, crops can be grown vertically, maximizing the use of limited space and enabling higher crop yields per square meter compared to traditional farming methods.

Perhaps the best part is container farms can be deployed where they’re needed, a move that decentralizes food production and limits emissions associated with transporting large amnounts of harvested food over long distances.

There are already some initiatives and projects in Saudi Arabia that are exploring the potential of indoor farming. The King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) has established the Center of Excellence for Green CEA Technologies, which focuses on research and development of indoor farming technologies. Additionally, several private companies are investing in indoor farming facilities in the country, utilizing advanced technologies and sustainable practices.

The Green Riyadh Project also offers opportunities for indoor growing, this time for trees as part of one of the “most ambitious afforestation projects in the world,” according to the government’s website. The plan is to plant more than 7.5 million trees throughout the city of Riyadh, and FarmBox Foods’ Vertical Hydroponic Farm allows for scalable tree propagation. The tree program is expected to improve air quality, reduce temperatures in the city, and encourage residents to practice a more active lifestyle, helping to meet the goals of the kingdom’s Saudi Vision 2030 initiative.

Advancements in science and technology have brought us to this point, and increased awareness of the benefits of indoor farming in the Middle East mean it will continue to gain traction in the coming years.

Innovating and Advancing Through Diversity

The word “diversity” has taken on new meaning and greater significance in recent years, with businesses incorporating goals related to diversity and inclusion into their operations. But what does it really mean, and how is it influencing the trajectory of certain industries?

While some corporations pay lip-service to the idea and implement strategies simply to check a box, its role in CEA (controlled-environment agriculture) is outsized, and there’s widespread recognition that paying closer attention to ensuring diversity in all aspects can be an asset throughout the indoor ag community via job creation, food security, education and bridging long-standing equity gaps.

A diverse workforce, for example, brings together individuals with different backgrounds and experiences, bringing fresh and unique ideas and solutions to the table. This results in increased adaptability, and a broader range of perspectives, which can undoubtedly drive business growth and success while making a positive impact.

Varied backgrounds can help identify potential risks and opportunities that may have otherwise been overlooked. Diverse teams are also more likely to engage in constructive debates and discussions, leading to more well-rounded decisions. To take it a step further, employees today seek inclusive work environments where they feel valued and respected, and such environments are more likely to result in higher levels of employee engagement and retention. In turn, those employees are also more likely to be motivated, loyal, and committed to the success of the business.

When FarmBox Foods was in its infancy, it recognized the value of bringing different perspectives to its board room, and hired Derrick Holmes, who serves as the company’s chief diversity officer. His role, in part, is to help guide our strategies and establish closer ties with communities that have traditionally been underserved and underrepresented. Providing those communities with access to nutritious food has been at the forefront of FarmBox’s business plan; the company recognizes that providing something as fundamental as food security allows a community to thrive in other ways. This is something the company wants to be a part of.

As a privately-owned company, FarmBox has flexibility to pursue projects that it feels will have generational impacts, even if they’re not as lucrative as other projects. Each individual project is meaningful in its own way, and it would be foolish to conduct operations with a one-size-fits-all approach. The technology that FarmBox Foods has developed has a unique ability to transform communities and bridge the wealth gaps that persist in the U.S. and elsewhere. Deploying container farms where they’re needed most is, in FarmBox’s estimation, not only good for business, but good for the world.

FarmBox Foods talks container farming at Indoor Ag Con

A debate that distinguished FarmBox Foods as a leader in controlled-environment agriculture drew hundreds of attendees at Indoor Ag Con in Las Vegas on Feb. 28.

Organizers for the annual indoor growing convention invited FarmBox Foods Executive Vice President Joseph Cammack to debate the pros and cons of container farming and greenhouse-based vertical farming with a representative from AeroFarms. The debate was moderated by Freight Farms’ former CEO and co-founder Brad McNamara.

While FarmBox Foods, a Colorado-based manufacturer of containerized farms, has made its name with a tech-driven Vertical Hydroponic Farm, it’s increasingly gaining attention for its start-to-finish Gourmet Mushroom Farm.

The 320-square-foot portable farms bring food production close to the consumer and incorporate sustainable growing practices into the cultivation processes. Software and specialized sensor technology enable users to program the ideal conditions for growing nutrient-dense produce.

The Gourmet Mushroom Farm is attracting considerable attention because few companies are using upcycled shipping containers to grow fungi, including lion’s mane, reishi, oysters and king trumpets. The farms are used to support grocery stores, restaurants, wholesale suppliers, community-supported agriculture programs and more.

“I’m glad people see the value in adding mushrooms to their list of offerings,” Cammack said. “Mushroom cultivation is a growing business that generates significant revenue for operations of all sizes.”

Lion’s mane mushrooms found to stimulate nerve growth, according to study

Researchers from Australia and South Korea have discovered an active compound from lion’s mane mushrooms that improves brain cell growth, enhances memory and boosts nerve growth.

The researchers purified and identified biologically new active compounds from lion’s mane known in science circles as Hericium erinaceus —  based on their ability to promote neurite outgrowth in hippocampal neurons.

If you really want to get into the weeds, take a look at the study published earlier this year in the Journal of Neurochemistry.

Other studies have identified strong neurotrophic effects, along with the identification of numerous bioactive components, including polysaccharides, erinacines, hericerins, alkaloids, steroids and many others, according to the study. Those studies showed that lion’s mane can help regulate blood sugar and reduce high blood pressure, as well as other mental and brain health applications including treating depression and improving recovery after a traumatic brain injury, according to an article in Popular Science.

Humans can consume lion’s mane in a variety of ways; Manna Restaurant in Castle Rock, Colo., recently made pulled pork sliders out of it. Powder extracts and tinctures are exploding in popularity, and compounds found in lion’s mane are even being used in skin care products.

According to the study, a promising nootropic fungus from lion’s mane has been used to treat ailments such as stomach aches and as prophylactic treatment of cancers. More research is needed to fully understand the implications of lion’s mane consumption, but advances such as the ones announced in the Journal of Neurochemistry are giving hope across multiple fields of medical study.

Lion’s mane, a mushroom that bears shaggy spines and has a crab-like consistency, traditionally grows on old or dead broadleaf tree trunks, but commercial scalability of lion’s mane is now attainable with controlled-environment agriculture. Repurposed shipping containers, in which the entire cultivation process takes place, provide the means to yield 300-400 pounds of the fungi per week. FarmBox Foods outfits the containers with a substrate mixer, steam cabinets for sterilization, a HEPA lab, incubation room and a fruiting chamber with a misting system.

Recent events highlight need for localized food production

A series of recent events have demonstrated the need for more localized food production.

Bad weather in Spain and Morocco has caused shortages, prompting several British supermarket chains to limit the amount of some fresh fruits and vegetables that customers can buy. Likewise, in the U.S., some restaurants and stores have had difficulty sourcing leafy greens due to a disease that wiped out thousands of acres of crops in California. Prices have predictably climbed to the point where people are seeking out replacement veggies. Meanwhile, severe drought continues to plague traditional farming operations.

The vulnerabilities of the worldwide supply chain were exposed for all to see when the pandemic hit in February/March 2020. CSAs — community-supported agriculture programs — quickly gained in popularity. The veggies came from nearby farming operations, and consumers were glad to support local businesses while reducing the carbon footprint associated with transporting goods.

The USDA has put renewed focus on fledgling farms and recently opened up $133 million in grant funding to support the planning and implementation of regional and local farms. The Local Agriculture Market Program — or LAMP — intends to generate “new income for small, beginning and underserved farmers and improve food access for rural and urban communities.

Decentralized food production will be a larger part of our future, and investing in the infrastructure now will help stave off the types of crises we’re currently seeing. Agtech solutions enable people with no agricultural background to begin farming in the areas where nutrient-dense food is most needed.

Evolving Labor Trends Turn Mushroom Farming into Viable and Profitable Option​

Evolving Labor Trends Turn Mushroom Farming into Viable & Profitable Option

Chestnut mushrooms in a fruiting chamber

Nearly everyone has heard about recent workplace trends said to have arisen from the pandemic, like “quiet quitting,” when in fact people have been re-assessing their priorities and career choices for years in an effort to strike a more equitable work-life balance.

 

There’s generally more awareness about workers leaving their jobs in pursuit of something more fulfilling. Finding a passion and turning it into a lucrative source of income is the goal, and turnkey solutions like container-based mushroom farming are receiving more recognition and acceptance as a low-overhead avenue to success.

 

Starting a career in farming might sound daunting, but a Denver-area company called FarmBox Foods makes it accessible, even for those with no prior experience in agriculture. FarmBox Foods manufactures high-yield Gourmet Mushroom Farms inside insulated shipping containers, allowing people to grow popular varieties of mushrooms year-round and create multiple revenue streams in the process. The privately owned company also trains you how to do it.

 

It’s a viable solution for those who don’t have millions of dollars to invest in a new business venture. There’s no need to buy farmland (the containers have a footprint of 320 square-feet) and all of the necessary equipment for start-to-finish mushroom cultivation is included. And customers can even finance the container farms, which generate more than $1.2 million in profits over their projected 10-year lifespan.

 

The farms open up opportunities for sustainable food production in places that currently lack access to fresh food, including islands. More than 90 percent of food consumed on islands is imported, which increases costs, reduces quality and results in food miles that impact the environment.

 

“It’s something that people can really pour their heart and soul into,” said Rusty Walker, CEO of FarmBox Foods. “It’s not just a new career. It allows you to live and work where you want to and get a good return on your investment while doing something that gives back to the community.”

 

The controlled-climate mushroom farms use a digital control panel and a network of sensors to monitor and automatically adjust conditions inside the farm for optimal growing. The farms can grow nearly 20 varieties of mushrooms, including lion’s mane, oysters, king trumpets and reishi, and yield around 400 pounds of mushrooms per week.

 

To learn more about purchasing or leasing a Gourmet Mushroom Farm, or to schedule an in-person or virtual tour, visit farmboxfoods.com/gourmet-mushroom-farm/.

FarmBox Foods launches indoor farm that grows livestock feed

Trays of hydroponic fodder growing in an indoor farm.

FarmBox Foods LLC is excited to announce the official launch of its Hydroponic Fodder Farm.

The company hosted a public open house on Sept. 27 at our home base in Sedalia, CO. Guided tours of the new indoor farm — the third product line offered by FarmBox Foods — were provided. Attendees also received a tour of the company’s other tech-assisted, containerized farms: the Vertical Hydroponic Farm and Gourmet Mushroom Farm.

What exactly is fodder? It’s a nutrient-dense hay that’s used as a dietary supplement for horses, cows, pigs, goats, chickens, sheep, rabbits and alpacas.

(Want to learn more about FarmBox Foods? Watch our July appearance on ABC News here)

By growing fodder on site year-round, farmers and ranchers can avoid supply chain disruptions, sourcing issues and spikes in hay prices. The controlled-climate farms provide a reliable, hyperlocal source of fresh food while shielding the barley fodder from weather and climate impacts, including drought, heat waves, freezes and floods. The farms are housed inside upcycled, insulated shipping containers outfitted with plumbing, electrical and sensors to control conditions inside. The 320 square-foot farms also capture, filter and recycle water for maximum water efficiency. 

Protein-rich fodder improves the overall health of livestock, supplements hydration and adds weight to beef cattle. It also promotes the production of better-quality milk for dairy cows and goats, improves fertility rates, reduces the likelihood of illness, and decreases methane output because of its superior digestibility compared to traditional alfalfa hay.

Because barley fodder requires only a 7-day growth cycle, a staggered schedule allows farmers and ranchers to harvest around 880 pounds of fodder per day.

Adaptation Key to Stabilizing Food Prices

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.

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.

Supply chain delays caused by, among other things, pandemic-related shutdowns, a truck driver shortage and a logjam at our nation’s ports were already causing issues with the U.S. food supply. Then, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine caused a ripple effect that we still see playing out globally. It has impacted fuel prices, food exports and the supply of fertilizer needed to maintain food production levels in places like Brazil, a top producer of goods like sugar and soybeans. Even avian flu is affecting the price of eggs and poultry.

The Consumer Price Index for all food in the U.S. increased 1 percent from March 2022 to April 2022, and food prices were 9.4 percent higher than in April 2021. 

It’s an inescapable phenomenon that’s disproportionately affecting those who were already struggling to feed their families. So when will it end? There are, of course, differing opinions on when or even if food prices will level out anytime soon.

The cost of fresh vegetables is expected to go up by 4.3 percent this year, the USDA says, a point that underscores the need to decentralize the production of certain veggies. Hyperlocal production of nutrient-dense food can help control costs, primarily because it eliminates fuel price fluctuations and supply chain delays from the equation. It also helps reduce the rate of food loss, because the veggies make their way to the fridges and plates of consumers much more quickly.

Having a localized level of control takes the power away from negative external influences, and places the power back in the hands of urban farmers, who can nimbly grow at scale using a combination of greenhouses, outdoor community gardens and containerized, tech-assisted farms. A container farm takes up 320 square-feet of space — or about 5 parking spaces — and can be placed anywhere there’s a reliable water supply and an electrical hookup.

Businesses that serve underprivileged communities can come together in the name of food security and provide these food production systems that operate in perpetuity and provide jobs and educational opportunities in the process. Although veggies comprise only a portion of the food consumed in America, it’s incremental changes like this that can move the needle in a direction that eases the burden on consumers.

FarmBox Foods CEO Rusty Walker Among ‘Who’s Who in Ag’ in Colorado

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 Walker, center, with two of FarmBox Foods’ founders, Tony English, left, and Jake Savageau.

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.