Local Roots Farms Uses Robotics for Vertical Indoor Farms

Backed by Over $1M in Seed Capital, Startup Local Roots Farms Uses Shipping Containers to Grow Food Closer to Customers

Startup: Local Roots Farms

What they do: Local Roots Farms is building out a distributed network of vertical indoor farms in order to sell top-quality produce as geographically close to customers as possible.

Headquarters: Vernon, CA

CEO: Eric Ellestad. Eric is the product of a fourth-generation, family-owned manufacturing company, Utility Trailer, that is the North American market-leader for refrigerated semi-truck trailers. After spending his early career at the family business, he became an angel investor and built a portfolio of early stage companies that are commercializing technologies around food, water, energy and logistics. In 2012, Eric helped launch a hydroponic control systems company, which set the stage for Local Roots by introducing him to the challenges and opportunities surrounding indoor farming.Local Roots Farms logo

Founded: January 2013

Funding: Over $1M in seed capital from strategic investors in food services, commercial real estate, agtech, and venture finance.

Problem they tackle: The primary pain point Local Roots Farms solves is the lack of high-quality, affordable, locally grown produce in many regions for much of the year. With the bulk of all US leafy greens grown in California and Arizona, produce is often trucked over 3,000 miles to reach customers. This can cause high spoilage rates, cost volatility, nutrient degradation, and higher food prices for end customers.

Local Roots Farms Uses Robotics to Create a Network of Vertical Indoor Farms. Click To Tweet

What I like about them: By manufacturing farmland that can essentially be placed anywhere – rural, urban, and where the two meet in peri-urban locations — larger, systemic pain points in the produce supply chain are addressed. Waste is cut down due to shorter delivery distances; weather is no longer a factor; and urban food deserts can be diminished. Improved farming techniques – including more sustainable water usage rates, less dependence on fossil fuels, and no runoff from ecologically harmful fertilizers – is another major benefit.

Customers include Tendergreens

Key Differentiator: Local Roots Farms has made the strategic decision to focus on transforming standard 40′ shipping containers into farmland. This is smart, since it not only enables Local Roots Farms to enter new markets quickly, but it also makes it easier to scale up by simplifying operating procedures and streamlining manufacturing.

These indoor farm stacks achieve 300x the production densities of conventional farms. Using proprietary controlled-environment farming methods, Local Roots Farms claims that it can produce high-value leafy greens using 90% less water than conventional agriculture without the need for pesticides or herbicides. The result is a drastic reduction in food miles and food waste, protection against volatile weather systems (and therefore price stability), a novel solution for providing fresh food access to urban food deserts, and a model for feeding a growing global population.

Vertical farm pic

The focus on maximizing productive output enables Local Roots Farms to compete on costs with monopolistic outdoor growers. This has been a struggle for most controlled environment agriculture companies. Local Roots Farms is trying to set themselves apart by focusing on the integration of machine vision, robotics, automation, and microbiology to further improve their farming operations.

Competitive Landscape: The indoor farming industry is divided into two large categories: warehouse farming and modular (shipping containers) farming. Historically warehouse growers have had higher capital expenditure requirements and less flexibility to integrate new technology as it’s developed. The largest players are Aerofarms, Green Sense Farms, Green Spirit Farms, and FarmedHere. The modular side of the industry is still in its infancy, so this niche is a land grab for now. Modular competitors include PodPonics and CropOne.

Backed by Over $1M in Seed Capital, Startup Local Roots Farms Uses Shipping Containers to Grow Food Closer to Customers Click To Tweet


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