We dedicated more than two years to research and development, figuring out what will and will not grow in our containerized Vertical Hydroponic Farm.
The following list is not meant to be all-encompassing, but rather provide a snapshot of the types of crops that we and our customers have focused on, like yellow onions, collard greens, kale, a range of different micro greens, bok choy, red leaf beet and watercress. Of course, we’re always experimenting and adding to the list.
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.”
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.
What makes FarmBox Foods a green-oriented company?
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.
What is influencing the increase in food prices and what can be done about it?
Rising food prices influenced by several factors
A confluence of global events and circumstances have some experts painting a grim picture for populations that already face food insecurity.
Recent spikes in food, fuel and fertilizer prices could lead to “destabilization, starvation and mass migration on an unprecedented scale,” said David Beasley, head of the U.N. World Food Program.
A recent U.N. analysis shows that “a record 345 million acutely hungry people are marching to the brink of starvation.” That’s a 25-percent increase from 276 million at the start of 2022, before Russia invaded Ukraine in late February. The number stood at 135 million people before the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, according to an ABC News article.
The war in Ukraine is having a continuing ripple effect on the global food supply. Russia and Ukraine together export 28 percent of fertilizers made from nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, according to Morgan Stanley. The limited global supply has sent prices into the stratosphere — in some cases doubling the cost — and there are fears that high costs or the lack of availability will result in farmers using less fertilizer, leading to lower yields of commodities that are already constrained.
In early July, the Consumer Price Index report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics said that food prices in the U.S. increased 10.4 percent from June 2021 to June 2022.
Rising costs for any critical ingredient for running a farm — water, labor, fuel or fertilizer — translate to higher food prices. And when all four hit at the same time, disruption ensues, to the detriment of consumers, especially those who were already hanging on by a thread.
In all, worldwide experts fear crop yields will drop by 10-30 percent, and developing countries will be hardest hit.
The prevalence of “undernourishment” — when food consumption is insufficient to maintain an active and healthy life — continued to rise in 2021. The U.N.-commissioned report, “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World,” estimates that between 702 million and 828 million people faced hunger last year.
A grain shortage stemming from the Ukraine conflict is also driving up the cost of basic foods and other commodities, and corn and wheat are not getting out to the market because the Black Sea is closed. To top it off, drought conditions are crippling agricultural operations in several regions known for high output.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.