Leading CEA producers continue joining publicly funded effort to establish benchmarks for energy and water efficiency and productivity
PORTLAND, Ore. (May 6, 2022) — Less than two months since it announced a previous round of producer partners, Resource Innovation Institute (RII) welcomes its third round of producer partners who are benchmarking their energy- and water-efficiency performance metrics as part of a USDA-funded project intended to support controlled environment agriculture (CEA) producers to achieve greater resource efficiency.
The most recent round includes Local Bounti (MT / CA), Square Roots (NY / OH / MI / WI), Pure Green Farms (IN), Planted Detroit (MI), and Finn & Roots (VT). They join AppHarvest (KY), Fifth Season (PA), Revol Greens (MN / TX / CA), Martian Farms (NJ), Loma Vista Nursery (KS), the University of Vermont Horticulture Research & Education Center (VT), Controlled Environmental Farming Inc. (WI) and Vertical Harvest (WY). Additional producer partners will be announced in the near future.
“We are partnering with these leading producers and the USDA to establish performance benchmarks and an accessible aggregate dataset to inform governments, utilities and media about CEA efficiency trends and opportunities,” said Derek Smith, Executive Director of Resource Innovation Institute.
“These producers represent a range of geographies, crops, scales and growing approaches, and we are thrilled to deploy USDA resources to help them further understand their resource profile so they can continue to innovate and become more efficient, and produce more for less impact,” said Derek Smith, Executive Director of RII. “Their successful approaches will be featured in upcoming case studies, and the aggregate data we assemble will inform a CEA KPIs, Baselines and High-Performance Strategies report to the USDA. This will in turn help the USDA know more about the CEA market and how it can do even more to support producers to adopt climate-smart practices.”
Profiles of producer partners:
Finn & Roots | Greenhouse | Vermont
Finn & Roots grows plants and fish in a closed system using water rather than soil. Aquaponics is an alternative food production approach that has roots dating back thousands of years with Asian farming practices.
“Finn & Roots has always been an operation that values sustainability and ecological stewardship. Efficiency and resilience are key for a rural operation like Finn & Roots with limited workforce and high transportation costs,” said Holly Counter Beaver, Owner/Operator, Finn and Roots. “We value how benchmarking helps us measure the benefits of improvements we have made and will continue to make to our environmental control systems and supplemental lighting systems.”
Local Bounti | Greenhouse | Montana / California
Local Bounti is redefining indoor farming with an innovative method – its proprietary Stack & Flow Technology® – that improves crop turns, increases output, and improves unit economics. We grow healthy food utilizing a hybrid approach that integrates the best attributes of controlled environment agriculture with natural elements. Local Bounti operates advanced indoor growing facilities across the United States, servicing approximately 10,000 retail doors with its two brands: Local Bounti and Pete’s.
“Local Bounti looks forward to working with RII and its members to better understand energy use in the CEA space and to build standards and benchmarks to allow the entire CEA space to improve. As part of Local Bounti’s ESG commitments, we support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) and in particular SDG’s 7 Affordable and Clean Energy and 17 Partnership for the Goals,” said Gary Hilberg, Chief Sustainability Officer of Local Bounti. “In fulfilling these commitments Local Bounti is investigating energy efficiencies and energy measurement. The RII projects will hopefully bring more technology, measurement, and transparency to the CEA space.”
Planted Detroit | Indoor | Michigan
Planted Detroit is a CEA vertical farm growing in the Islandview neighborhood of Detroit. They grow baby greens, herbs and microgreens utilizing an innovative combination of technologies including proprietary automation and NFT channels. Food safety and biosecurity are the highest priority when it comes to Planted Detroit’s farm design, allowing their farms to produce healthy, flavorful greens without utilizing any pesticides or herbicides, ever. Planted Detroit’s vision is to put a salad on every table. In pursuit of this goal, Planted provides year-round fresh greens to Detroit and beyond, extending the season of fresh greens in Southeast Michigan by offering nutrient-dense, low allergen, vegan, and uniquely flavorful ready-to-eat salads.
“We are very excited about the potential of this research partnership with RII. Planted Detroit has always sought the highest and best utilization of technology, and understanding how our farm design relates to resource efficiency will be hugely beneficial to the overall business as well as its impact on the environment,” said Meg Burritt, Managing Partner and Leader of Business Development for Planted Detroit. “We are particularly enthused that this work has the backing of the USDA; while we growers know that CEA is a growing part of our food system, this research will help ensure that CEA growers like Planted Detroit continue to be positive contributors to a more sustainable agricultural future.”
Pure Green Farms | Greenhouse | Indiana
Pure Green Farms grows, packs, and ships leafy greens year-round from its hydroponic farm in South Bend, Ind. It produces greens in its hands-free, high-tech, climate-controlled space.
“At Pure Green Farms, we’re looking at all kinds of technologies for power. We really want to be resilient and to lead,” said Joe McGuire, CEO, Pure Green Farms. “We appreciate the help from the USDA and Resource Innovation Institute to figure out what makes the most sense for our farms.”
Square Roots | Indoor | New York / Ohio / Michigan / Wisconsin
Square Roots repurposes existing urban infrastructure such as empty parking lots, using upcycled shipping containers to construct its farms, reducing its impact on the land and providing fresh products locally. All Square Roots fresh greens are locally grown 365 days a year in the company’s climate-controlled indoor farms and sold in more than 250 stores across the country.
“Square Roots recently measured our scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions with an independent third party, so we can quantify our current CO2e footprint and make meaningful reductions,” said Ashley Rafalow, Director of Impact at Square Roots. “Data-driven insights like these can empower the CEA industry to make meaningful change, which is why we are thrilled to partner with RII and contribute to their project to develop industry standards and transparency to ensure all indoor-grown food is made responsibly.”
This benchmarking effort is funded at no cost to producers as part of a three-year Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) funded project titled “Data-Driven Market Transformation for Efficient, Sustainable Controlled Environment Agriculture.” The CIG program is administered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. Earlier this year, RII released under the banner of the project a CEA Market Transformation Strategy after a study of the sources of energy and water resources used by CEA producers. The strategy called for benchmarking, promoting efficiency benefits and supporting producers.
RII’s PowerScore platform serves as the project’s tool for standardized data integration and aggregation. PowerScore enables CEA producers to confidentially validate their innovative practices. Using standardized key performance indicators, PowerScore helps producers gain insights into their operational performance while protecting strategic business interests. When producers receive their PowerScore Performance Snapshots, they also meet with the RII Engineering Team to review a Producer Resource Efficiency Plan (PREP), which analyzes trends in KPI performance, notes facility strengths and opportunities, and guides prioritization of efficiency projects going forward.
To learn more about PowerScore, visit ResourceInnovation.org/PowerScore.
About Resource Innovation Institute: Resilient harvests for the next hundred years
Resource Innovation Institute is an objective, data-driven non-profit organization whose mission is to measure, verify and celebrate the world’s most efficient agricultural ideas. We cultivate a better future for all of humanity with our vision of resilient harvests for the next hundred years. Our consortium of members brings perspectives from across the field—uniting architects and engineers, growers and operators, researchers and analysts. Founded in 2016 to advise governments, utilities and industry leaders on the resource impacts of indoor cultivation, an under-studied and resource-intensive market, we have since extended our research to other sectors in partnership with the US Department of Agriculture. To take on the challenges of our changing world, we believe that food, medicine and other vital crops demand data-driven insights, securely shared with integrity. By nurturing the human connections in our complex and dynamic industry, we can build deeply restorative systems for people and the planet. Visit our website at ResourceInnovation.org. Follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.