Indoor Farming Takes off With COVID-19 Food Shortages

(Noted News) — Growing your own vegetables at home is no longer a passing hobby. With the potential for food shortages looming in the wake of COVID-19, it may actually become a necessity. 

Elevate Farms, headed by Toronto’s Amin Jadavji, is part of the indoor farming industry’s move to frame itself as the solution to food shortages and the fragility in agricultural infrastructure. 

Jadavji said that COVID-19 has “helped us frame the narrative,” allowing them to successfully build farms in Ontario, New York, and New Zealand. 

The US’ agricultural industry is largely dependent on Mexico and the American southwest, mainly California. These areas have been shown to be vulnerable to droughts and wildfires, and many experts believe these areas will be some of the most affected regions by climate change. 

Jonathan Webb, CEO of AppHarvest, said he is looking to “rip the produce industry out of California and Mexico and bring it over here.” AppHarvest grows tomatoes in a 60-acre greenhouse from Morehead, Kentucky, and is aiming to open an additional 12 growing facilities by 2025. 

Webb says that their facilities are positioned throughout the country to be able to reach 70% of the US’ population within a one-day drive. The blossoming industry has attracted some big bets from notable investors and venture capital firms, including Toronto-based Mosaic Capital Partners who put $1.6 million into Elevate Farms in late 2020. The deal includes a partnership between Elevate and Intravision Greens Niagara Inc, another indoor farming facility builder. 

“Elevate and IGNI are extremely excited about this new partnership. Mosaic has a long and well-established history of value creation for their clients, and we see them as being an ideal partner to further develop IGNI’s operations across Canada.”

Travis Kanellos, Elevate Farm’s Chief Strategy Officer said, “Elevate and IGNI have the ability to materially expand the scope of local leafy green production and bolster a vulnerable agriculture industry. With this partnership, Elevate now has a footprint on four continents (North America, the European Union, Asia, and Australia/New Zealand) and we are well ahead of pace in executing our global strategy.”

Freight Farms, maker of containerized vertical farms, has partnered with food-service and facilities management firm Sodexo to bring hydroponic vertical farms into school campuses across the US. Sodexo services over 13,000 sites in North America, making the potential for growth very substantial. 

Of the 13,000 sites Sodexo serves, only 35 of them are school cafeterias, but the company says they plan on expanding that number “rapidly.” 

The UN has been warning of food shortages ever since the coronavirus pandemic took hold. 

David Beasley, head of the United Nations World Food Program, said in September that the organization was trying to extend food supplies to 138 million people, the biggest number they have ever endured. 

“We’re doing just about all we can do to stop the dam from bursting. But, without the resources we need, a wave of hunger and famine still threatens to sweep across the globe,” said the WFP Executive Director. 

In Yemen, 8 million people were facing a food crisis, and another 3 million were on the verge of starving to death.

“We’ll be forced to cut rations for the remaining 4.4 million by December if resources do not increase,” he said. “The world needs to open up its eyes to the Yemeni people before famine takes hold.” 

Member countries and independent donors contributed a whopping $17 trillion to the food program in 2020, sadly barely putting a dent in the crisis at all. 

According to the WFP, the hunger crisis is creating a domino effect of other issues, such as gang violence and terrorism. Affected countries include Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Congo, and South Sudan. 

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