Tip of the Iceberg Podcast Episode 74: How seeds honed for vertical farms help retailers

Listen to the Tip of the Iceberg Episode 74: How seed genetics can help vertical farming and the retailers that stock their product.

We talk with John Purcell, president and CEO of Unfold, a seed genetics company launched in 2020 to help specifically vertical indoor farms.

Seeds for these farms have different needs with such tight, controlled environments. Plus, whatever can be done to keep costs down with all those upfront infrastructure costs and energy expenditures is welcome.

With significant startup capital from Bayer Crop Science, the Davis, Calif.-based company approaches seeds with a narrow focus: crop growing and agronomy for the burgeoning vertical farming industry. Purcell previously worked at Bayer and before that, Monsanto and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"What unfold brings is that 100% focus on delivering solutions for vertical farming,"

Purcell said.

Unfold works with the indoor agriculture community to improve operational efficiencies and create new sources of value for vertical farms through new seed varieties. 

The company offers plant biology expertise, digital tools and germplasm, which is the collection of species and relatives of crop plants used to develop new plant varieties for food and other uses, such as feed, ornamentals, turf and fiber.

The firm’s seeds are optimized for indoor growing conditions — with their precise environmental controls and specialized lighting — to help vertical farms reduce production costs by cutting down on time to harvest, for example.

Shorter harvest cycles can reduce energy consumption levels, which can reduce costs and product prices. Better genetic offerings could also improve the vegetable or fruit quality, making it more appealing to consumers.

In this podcast episode, expect to learn about these topics:

  • Unfold’s beginnings and its new innovation partner program;
  • The vertical farm industry’s unique challenges and advantages;
  • How retailers are responding to these products and the market share among other indoor- and outdoor-grown produce;
  • The different types of vertical-grown produce that may be on shelves next;
  • Data sharing for innovation, data privacy and competition; and
  • How this kind of farming can help inventory management and (more) perfect ordering.

Listen to Episode 74 on Apple Podcasts or your favorite platform for podcasts.


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