When Farming Goes Vertical


The last six months have seen sharp increases in the global prices ofwheat, maize, sugar and edible oils. According to the World Bank, thefood price index increased by 15% between October 2010 and January 2011and is only 3% below its 2008 peak. Weather shocks, export restrictions, curtailed supply and soaring demand for maize and other products pushed prices to levels that threaten millions of poor people. The currentsituation also reflects the established U.S. biofuel targets — theCongress mandated that biofuel use must reach 36 billion gallonsannually by 2022. China, Indonesia, India and the European Union (EU)increased their demand for corn for biofuels. Combined with rising fuelcosts, this is driving food prices to an all-time high.

Rising food prices are affecting mostly developing countries with steadily growingpopulations and thus the growing demand for food. In India, China andthe Middle East, higher incomes contribute to more people shifting tothe middle class, which is also changing dietary habits. To feed worldpopulations, food production must be increased by 2050. Ways to achievethis vary with local climate and conditions such as water supply, soilfertility, humidity, etc., which vary significantly throughout theworld.

While VCs are still mostly on the sidelines, there has been an influx of interest in air and water investments, and films like Food Inc. and the spread of organic food underscore the tremendous public interest in this issue.

AeroFarm says it potentially represents one way to start tackling the problem.Considering that 925 million people in developing countries (13.6% ofthe 6.8 billion world population) are undernourished, according to theFood and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the AeroFarm system, which isnot restricted by any capacity other than modest amounts of water andelectricity, has already proven to be a good solution for growinghigh-quality leafy greens in Saudi Arabia.

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