Opinion and comment from Food and Drink leaders.
Mike is executive chairman of Eider Vertical Farming, a business committed to growing differently and reimagining farming, creating perfect environments for plants to thrive. It produces fresh, nutritious and affordable food, supplying wholesalers with a consistent, high-quality and locally grown source of supply 365 days a year. Mike has a background in project and corporate finance and a proven track record investing in and developing energy infrastructure projects.
One business success:
- Eider Vertical Farming understands that consumers want great-tasting, locally sourced food but are reluctant to pay more. This is why we will not grow a crop unless we can do so at a competitive market price, in line with conventionally grown produce. Our business achievement of the last year has been proving that, by growing at scale with proven technology, this is possible. Unlike some vertical farming companies, we do not believe that consumers should pay a premium for vertically-farmed produce.
Two challenges the sector faces:
- Food security: Shocks related to climate change, conflict, pests and emerging infectious diseases hurt food production, disrupt supply chains and stress people’s ability to access nutritious and affordable food. Agriculture, forestry and land use change are responsible for 25% of greenhouse gas emissions. Mitigation in the agriculture sector is part of the solution.
- Soil health is now a primary concern to farmers and the global community whose livelihoods depend on well-managed agriculture. The world has lost a third of its arable land due to erosion or pollution in the past 40 years, with potentially disastrous consequences. This trend is close to being irretrievable without major changes to agricultural practices.
Three forecasts for the sector:
- Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) will be a game changer in the search for innovative and more efficient ways to meet the world’s food requirements. The techniques and technology used in vertical farming will continue to improve and advance. Over the last 10 years, the number and kind of crops which can be cultivated viably has already grown: from lettuces, leafy greens and herbs to soft fruits and vining crops. In the future, staple crops such as rice and wheat will become viable.
- Vertical farming will reinvent the agricultural sector for a younger generation eager to explore new methods and technologies. Outdoor farms have long struggled to recruit and retain seasonal workers to pick their crops – and this has been an even greater challenge during lockdown and post-Brexit. Vertical farming provides employment and training opportunities in design, research, manufacturing, robotics, data analytics, horticulture and food safety, which are higher paid, more rewarding and offer transferrable skills.
- Consumers are increasingly engaged with where their food comes from and how it is produced. Consumers who shop with their values and have an appetite for delicious, responsibly sourced and affordable food will actively request vertically farmed produce which doesn’t cost the earth.