To start the design process of a vertical farm it is important to have a relationship with the local municipality for a multitude of reasons. For us at Glens Falls, it was not only an essential relationship, it was the catalyst for the initial undertaking.
Re-Nuble, together with Jeff Flagg, who heads up the Glens Falls’ Economic Development Department, received a Smart Cities Innovation grant through New York State’s Empire State Development. This acted as our initial seed funding to get the project off the ground.
Talent Pipeline in the Controlled Environment Agriculture Industry
Next was looking for the right people for the job, particularly at a local level. As we all know, it is word of mouth connections amongst the community that makes these local projects either a success or a failure. In an industry where vertical farms are looking for very specific skill sets, working with local municipalities to scout for the right talent is an important first step. For example, my involvement with the vertical farm was through a referral from a local Farm Manager to Jeff. Having worked with his farm as their former hydroponics Cultivation Manager, there was a track record for Re-Nuble and the local municipality to assess in order to see if I’d be the right fit for the job.
With the help from the city’s employees also came a number of connections throughout the Glens Falls area. Some of our vertical farm’s partners, National Grid, Abbot Energy, and Sustainable PR among others, have all been paramount to the farm’s success. Having a solid connection to the area and its residents is critical in an endeavor such as this. Through these partnerships we were able to get energy to the space, design the racking and setup of farm, and effectively communicate both locally and nationally on the progress of the farm.
Storage and Logistics Assistance
In addition to the help from Glens Falls’ Economic Development Department, we then worked with the city’s Purchasing Department for the acquisition of farm construction material. By building this relationship, we were able to ensure that working with vendors ran smoothly, from a terms-setting as well as scheduling aspect.
One aspect that vertical farms need to consider is storage. This is where a relationship with the Purchasing Department helped. Typically, many vertical farms don’t have acres of land to work with, making storage a bit more complicated. But through an arrangement with the Purchasing Department, we received storage assistance for material ordered prior to construction, as well as occasionally helping us with logistics and moving items from point A to point B.
These relationships have proved important throughout the process. So be sure to identify which team you can work with in order to fill any operational gaps that you may have, especially at the early stages of starting up your vertical farm. Vertical farms are large undertakings. Having a good relationship with the local municipality will go a long way bettering your chance of being profitable.
You can also follow more insights from our partnership with Glens Falls and others committed to the Glens Falls Vertical Farm Public Pilot here. As we ramp up production, we’ll be sharing even more detailed insights, which could help your vertical farm.
By Josh Fabian