Sustainable Food Production Isn’t Just Possible, It’s Inevitable

The idea of adopting sustainable practices in food production to address critical environmental, social and economic challenges has until recently been seen as a pipe dream, an impenetrable barrier to progress.

There’s concern about costs and whether implementation would be widespread enough to result in noticeable change. But as tech has advanced and prices have slowly come down, this is something that’s within our grasp and something we should expect to see in our lifetimes.

Sustainable food production minimizes environmental degradation by promoting practices that conserve soil fertility, reduce water usage, and mitigate the use of harmful pesticides and fertilizers. Prioritizing ecological balance helps safeguard biodiversity, maintain ecosystems and combat climate change. This is crucial for ensuring the long-term viability of our planet and securing the availability of natural resources for future generations. We don’t want to be remembered as the generation that had the opportunity to do something, but squandered it.

Sustainable food production has significant social implications. It fosters equitable distribution of resources, promotes fair labor practices and supports local communities. Sustainable agriculture often involves small-scale, community-based farming that empowers local producers and reduces dependence on large-scale, industrialized farming systems. This not only strengthens local economies but also enhances food security by diversifying sources and reducing vulnerability to external shocks, such as the supply chain disruptions that crippled our food systems during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Adopting sustainable practices in food production is essential for addressing global food security challenges. As the world’s population continues to grow, ensuring a stable and sufficient food supply is going to become more difficult. Sustainable agriculture emphasizes efficiency and resilience, optimizing yields while minimizing negative impacts on the environment. By embracing methods such as agroecology, organic farming, and precision agriculture, we can create a more robust and resilient food system capable of meeting the nutritional needs of a growing population without compromising the health of the planet. Again, this is achievable with a little bit of political will and a whole lot of education.

Sustainable food production is also economically prudent. While initial investments may be required to transition to sustainable practices, the long-term benefits far outweigh the costs. Sustainable agriculture, like farming in controlled-climate shipping containers, reduces reliance on expensive inputs, maintains soil health for traditional growing, and promotes resource efficiency, leading to increased productivity and decreased production costs over time.

It opens up new market opportunities as consumers increasingly prioritize sustainably produced goods, creating a positive feedback loop that encourages businesses to adopt environmentally and socially responsible practices. It’s already happening in the U.S. People have shown a willingness to incorporate changes into their own lives, and they’re more cognizant about where their food comes from. Taking a holistic approach isn’t some esoteric, “hippie-dippie” idea anymore. Creating an equitable future for both people and the planet, while expanding access to nutritionally dense foods, isn’t just achievable, it’s imperative.

Reflecting on an Uplifting Fundraiser for an AgTech Program

The smiles said it all.

We don’t often have the opportunity to see people working in our farms or enjoying fresh produce grown in a FarmBox. But that changed with our sponsorship of “Dancing with the Pueblo Starz” on July 15.

The event included active participation by individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities who work in the farm that was refurbished by FarmBox Foods and purchased by the nonprofit, Pueblo Diversified Industries. The Vertical Hydroponic Farm is used as the centerpiece of its Fresh Greens Colorado business, which doubles as a workforce development center for this underserved population.

The night was nothing short of magical. PDI and the seven couples who performed the featured dance routines raised $75,000, which will go toward supporting their agtech program.  Eric Gostenik (Director of National Sales at FarmBox) had the opportunity to dine with one of the developmentally disabled farmers and witness his reaction when he saw a video of himself talking about working in the farm. The farmers also participated in their own rehearsed dance routines.

Seeing this community rally around their own and around a program with infinite potential to transform lives was an opportunity of a lifetime. It brought the reasons why we do what we do to the forefront. We had the chance to meet city and county leaders, and I got to share a little bit about our company and our mission to the 600+ attendees.

To me, this is only the beginning of our work in Pueblo. There’s a significant need for food access, and when you can include a subset of people who find purpose and joy in helping others, it benefits everyone. We get to tell these stories and, ideally, show people outside of the company just who we are and what we believe.

This partnership was wholy a team effort. Eric shepherded PDI through the sales process, Jason Brown (VP of Deployment) and Jesse Gantzler (Quality Control Manager) put in a lot of work moving and refurbishing the VHF to be in ready condition, and they along with farm trainers Nick Brooks and Mollie Sullivan have provided support during operational challenges. Joseph Cammack (Executive VP) and Eric attended the Saturday night event in Pueblo and represented the company well while thinking about future partnerships with those sitting at our tables. I (Chris Michlewicz, VP of Communications) nervously gave a speech about who and what FarmBox, why we sponsored the event, and I even managed not to tear up when talking about the uplifting videos of those who work in the farms.

This is the ideal customer. They want to do good in the world, they know the impact of our container farms, and they’re serving as our ambassadors in Pueblo. This is what it’s all about.

FarmBox Foods Proud Sponsor of Dancing with the Pueblo Starz

FarmBox Foods was the proud “executive producer” of Dancing with the Pueblo Starz, which raised more than $75,000 for agtech programming.

The fundraising event at the Pueblo Convention Center benefitted Pueblo Diversified industries and Fresh Greens Colorado, an indoor farming operation in Pueblo that provides job opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

PDI and Fresh Greens Colorado are dedicated to supporting and empowering the community while becoming a catalyst for change. The donated funds will help transform the lives of these extraordinary individuals by enhancing their independence through vocational training and life skills development in a Vertical Hydroponic Farm built by FarmBox Foods. From job training to job placements, the money raised will support this hub where the whole community can connect, share experiences, and find a sense of belonging.

About PDI

Those with severe diverse abilities may need an additional hand-up in reaching their goals. PDI has a team that nurtures, supports, and guides the process, all driven by the individual. This team assists them in moving forward in life to their place of greatest comfort in work, home and recreation. We help our people leave limitations at the door through life-enhancing opportunities both in-house and within the community.

At PDI, our programs are specifically designed to provide a wide variety of choices and options, to engage both the body and mind. Because we are person-centered, we create the space for choice, ranging to serve younger individuals to those with more life experience; those who are independent to those who require more personalized care.

Each individual can choose from a wide array of activities and programming, include games and community outings, classes ranging from Spanish to cooking to computers, social skills activities, music and dancing lessons.

Celebrating the Unsung Heroes of the Pandemic

There’s no doubt that healthcare professionals deserve to be recognized and celebrated for their tireless efforts and unwavering dedication during the pandemic.

Police and fire personnel and even restaurant workers also should be lauded for continuing to work in very uncertain times. But a group that gets little recognition for adapting to the times (albeit less consequential) is local farmers.

When the supply chain dried up, people turned to local farmers, who played a vital role in helping to provide fresh, healthy food to their communities. Some did it through direct-to-consumer community-supported agriculture programs, or CSAs; others partnered with local grocers.

When the pandemic hit, grocery store shelves were emptied due to panic buying and supply chain disruptions, leading to food shortages in some areas. In response, local farmers stepped up to fill the gap, including Sutton’s Vertical Gardens in Nova Scotia. The husband-and-wife team that owns SVG noticed that the produce arriving in their area near Halifax was lacking in quality and was priced quite high.

Local farmers largely had more flexibility to adjust their production and distribution strategies to meet the needs of their communities. For example, some farmers shifted their focus from supplying restaurants and institutions to selling more products directly to consumers.

Local farmers also played a critical role in supporting food banks and other organizations that serve vulnerable populations. Many farmers donated excess produce or sold it at discounted prices to food banks and other organizations, helping to ensure that everyone had access to quality produce during a time of crisis.

Those who got to know nearby farmers forged new friendships and supported local economies, all while strengthening and reshaping food systems. Many consumers decided to stick with the new model after realizing it was important to know where their food comes from and it helped reduce the carbon footprint associated with transporting food over long distances.

Why Are We Wasting So Much Food?

We need to move the farms and not the food. It’s better for our environment, and growing near the end-user means the food arrives in refrigerators and on plates much quicker.

Let’s get right to the point: large-scale food waste in this day and age is completely unacceptable.

Around one-third of all food produced worldwide is lost or wasted, which is equivalent to around 1.3 billion tons of food each year. Why? With our complex logistics systems, tracking abilities and near-infinite means of communicating, how is this issue still so widespread?

Food waste happens everywhere, whether it be at the consumer level, in transit or during production. And this comes at a time when we need more food than ever to support Earth’s rapidly growing population. Many have heard that, according to the United Nations, the world population is expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, which means that food production will need to increase by about 50 percent to meet demand. But this estimation is based on the assumption that people will continue to consume a similar diet to what they do today.

So, what can we do to resolve these long-standing issues?

Dietary changes could drastically impact food demand. As incomes rise, people often consume more meat and dairy products, which require more resources to produce than plant-based foods. If the world’s population continues to shift toward a more Western-style diet, food production will need to increase even more.

Second, grow plant-based foods NEAR THE CONSUMER! We need to move the farms and not the food. It’s better for our environment, and growing near the end-user means the food arrives in refrigerators and on plates much quicker. In short, the more time people have to eat their veggies, the less of it will be thrown away.

Third, we should be working with food recovery agencies — almost every major city has one — to make sure the food that has been produced reaches someone who can eat it.

Last year, the Feeding America network and its partners rescued 3.6 billion pounds of groceries that otherwise would have been wasted. That food went directly to meals for people facing hunger. FarmBox Foods has worked with We Don’t Waste in Denver to repurpose what the company wasn’t able to sell.

There’s little doubt that we need sizable shifts in how we do things, but the roadmap for improvement is there. We just need to follow it.

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.

What makes FarmBox Foods a green-oriented company?

What makes FarmBox Foods a green-oriented company?

A cow eating hydroponic fodder

We use only upcycled shipping containers.
We give used, insulated shipping containers a new life: growing food at scale in areas that struggle with reliable cultivation and/or access. By outfitting them with the components to grow produce, the repurposed containers are kept out of landfills and scrap heaps.
 
The farms we build are designed to promote efficient water usage.
We capture, filter and reuse water in both our Hydroponic Fodder Farm and our Vertical Hydroponic Farm, which requires only about 5 gallons of water per day. Water is often lost to evaporation and transpiration in traditional farm settings. By recycling the water, our farms get the most out of every drop. In times of severe drought and diminishing water supplies, this efficiency is critically important. 
 
The farms were built to reduce energy usage associated with agricultural production.
Our Vertical Hydroponic Farm uses around 190 kwh per day, the energy equivalent of two loads of laundry. The Gourmet Mushroom Farm uses even less, drawing an average of only 80 kilowatt-hours of electricity each day. High-efficiency, low-energy LED lights are used in FarmBox containers to reduce energy consumption.
 
Reduced need for fossil fuels.
Every kilogram/pound of food waste has a corresponding waste factor for energy, labor, water, carbon emissions, etc. It takes a lot to get produce from point A to point B, including diesel fuel to power trucks and trains. Transporting goods across long distances could be a thing of the past, as our portable container farms enable people to grow food near the consumer, thereby reducing emissions and expenses. Hyper-local growing almost entirely removes the supply chain — and its ongoing issues — from the equation.
 
Indoor farms don’t require the use of pesticides.
Because our farms are enclosed, they’re protected from many of the variables that keep traditional farmers up at night, like drought, flooding, heat waves and hail. But it also prevents impacts from pests, and therefore, pesticides are not required in our farms. As a result, the water discharged from the Vertical Hydroponic Farms and Hydroponic Fodder Farms we build does not contribute to groundwater contamination.
 
Fodder consumption by livestock reduces methane output.
Barley fodder is easier to digest than traditional alfalfa hay and other nutritional supplements, and because of this, less methane is emitted into the atmosphere. We’re in the process of gathering more specific data to quantify the reduction of methane from different types of animals, and how that reduction corresponds with their respective intake of protein-rich fodder.
 
Growing near the consumer reduces the likelihood of food waste.
After being harvested, produce grown in traditional outdoor settings often spends a few days on trucks and in distribution centers before it arrives at the store. Hyperlocal growing helps fresh veggies arrive on consumers’ plates and in their refrigerators much sooner — often within 24 hours of being harvested. The produce maintains its shelf life, which provides a longer period of time to eat the food. This results in less food waste at the consumer level.
 
Our farms can run off solar power.
Anyone who wants to grow nutrient-dense food off-grid can do so by hooking their farm up to a small solar grid. 
 
Compost from our Gourmet Mushroom Farms helps promote soil health.
The spent substrate from FarmBox Foods’ GMF showroom model is donated to the local community to be used as nutrient-rich compost. The seedling pods and spent mushroom substrate can be used for further plant-growing compost once they are removed from the farms. The spent mushroom substrate, in particular, is quite sought after for this purpose. These eco-friendly by-products can also be incorporated into the soil, and the substrate will continue to grow mushrooms if properly managed.
 
Soil rejuvenation and less need for agricultural acreage.
Millions of acres of America’s traditionally fertile soil have been stripped of vital nutrients, and farmers are compelled to implement crop rotation and remediation steps like composting to regenerate agricultural land. A FarmBox occupies only 320 square-feet of space (they can also be stacked), does not need soil, and allows farmers to revitalize oft-used ag soil.
Furthermore, clear-cutting forests to make room for agriculture is not necessary for some crops. Farmers can utilize available vertical space to grow more food on a smaller footprint.

FarmBox Foods makes appearance on ‘Good Morning America’

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.

GMA Visits FarmBox Foods to Talk ‘Farming Without Harming’


Good Morning America

Good Morning America visited FarmBox Foods’ headquarters to learn how businesses and nonprofits are using technology to sustainably grow food near the consumer.

ABC News Chief Meteorologist Ginger Zee spoke to FarmBox Foods CEO Rusty Walker June 20 about the company’s mission to build high-tech indoor farms that provide food security year-round for those without reliable access to nutrient-dense food. 

(Watch the GMA appearance here)

Zee also interviewed representatives from two FarmBox Foods customers, Natural Grocers® and Centura Health, about their use of Vertical Hydroponic Farms, which provide a hyperlocal source of fresh produce while reducing environmental impacts and unpredictability associated with traditional farming. The farms are housed inside upcycled, insulated shipping containers that are outfitted with plumbing, electrical and sensors to control conditions inside.

By growing food on site, the companies that use FarmBoxes are avoiding supply chain disruptions, reducing food sourcing costs, improving access, and helping to eliminate food waste because the veggies get to the plate much quicker. 

 

The controlled-climate container farms provide a perfect growing environment for the plants and shield them from weather and climate impacts, including drought, heat waves and flooding.

 

Natural Grocers is growing organic lettuce behind its store in Lakewood, Colo., mere steps from the display case, and plans to expand the program elsewhere. Centura Health, meanwhile, owns three Vertical Hydroponic Farms and uses them to produce food for hospital patients and visitors, and to provide nutritious produce to food banks in the communities they serve.

FarmBox Foods Launches New Tagline, Slogan and Company Values

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. 

Personal values, experience lead new executive VP Joseph Cammack to FarmBox Foods

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.