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Company focuses on vertical growth — literally

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When most people think of farming, they think of vast expanses of land occupied by crops at ground level only. Few imagine farming in urban areas, on rooftops, in skyscrapers — and doing it vertically while using only a fraction of the water and none of the herbicides or pesticides. In reality, though, that kind of farming is already happening.

Glen Kertz, President and CEO of Valcent Productsexplains.

What are the virtues of vertical farming?
This is designed to allow the production of fresh food in an urban area or any other envirnoment where space or costs are tight. Going vertical makes a lot more food at a lot less cost.

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In what sorts of locations can it be done?
Roofs, warehouses, the desert. The idea is to put food production into the area its being consumed. Most meals have at least one component that has been shipped 1,500 miles. In many of our urban areas there's no space, so we go up. We get a lot more volume, with a much smaller footprint.

What kinds of products are you growing?
A lot of micro greens - baby lettuce, spinach, radish leaves. Lettuce loses 50% of it's nutritional value in the first 24 hours after it is picked. Going vertical saves space and money, but also makes a better product.

Are you up and running or is this still experimental?
We have our first full production prototype up in El Paso. We hope to commercially release this in 2008.

And how's business so far?
We are publicly traded but very small. We have a lab and research complex in El Paso. With 38 full-time employees.

What does the future hold?
Our goal is to franchise this out into the communities. To get local people involved in food production in their local areas. And we are trying to be as green friendly as we can. We use 1/20th of the water you'd use in a field. With no pesticides, no herbicides.