Vertically farmed wasabi arugula isn’t a hypothetical

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines. This is our Wednesday show, the time of the week when we niche down to a single topic. Today we spoke about the revolution within agriculture otherwise known as vertical farming.

Alex and Natasha spoke to hardware editor Brian Heater, who recently wrote a TC-1 about Bowery Farming spanning over 11,000 words and topics such as the taste of sustainable turnips and produce sections at grocery stores. The core of his multi-part exploration, though, was built around a question: Can Bowery Farms bring the newest and most innovative technologies to bear on civilization’s oldest and most optimized industry?

As a result, our episode went down a lot of tasty rabbit holes. We spoke about the current state of vertical farming, the challenges that come with commercialization and our struggling climate, and if your local dairy farm is actually thinking about adding a robot to their staff.

There was more to chew on, including the balance between sustainability and profit, how to think about carbon footprints, the commercialization of vertical farming today, and how some folks are spending $30 on a strawberry. We had a lovely time and will have Brian back on the pod.

Here’s the TC-1 if you’re interested:

  • Bowery Farming is forcing us all to look up at the future of vertical agriculture (3,500 words/14 minutes) — explores the evolution of vertical farming, its expansion in Japan and how Bowery Farming was started to bring indoor farming to the masses in the United States.
  • Hacking lettuce for taste and profit (2,500 words/10 minutes) — evaluates how Bowery collects data from its farms in order to optimize flavor while also potentially expanding its produce line into new categories like strawberries and turnips.
  • Can LEDs ultimately replace the sun? (2,100 words/8 minutes) — investigates two of the most important questions about Bowery Farming: Can it develop a competitive moat with its technology (which it dubs BoweryOS) and just how much environmental benefit can the company derive from its farms?
  • The voracious fight for your salad bowl (3,000 words/12 minutes) — looks at the extremely competitive nature of the produce section at the grocery store and how Bowery intends to build a brand with consumers while finding a route to profitability.
  • An interview with the author of The Vertical Farm — a bonus conversation with Dickson Despommier, frequently credited as the creator vertical farming in its modern context.

The Equity team will be back Friday morning with our weekly roundup. Our hearts go out to Mary Ann who will return to us in due time, and our general ire is reserved for Danny. Because we are still smarting from his divorcing of us for Lux.

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 a.m. PST, so subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify and all the casts!