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80 Acres' Robotics Shaping the Future of Agriculture
Ohio Ag Connection - 02/13/2020

A U.S. company aims to completely change the agricultural production and supply network in the country by taking an important step in indoor agriculture or vertical agriculture. The company claims that the difference between market vegetables and their own vegetables is distinguishable.

According to the data announced in 2019, in 2017, a total of 2 million farms in 3 million 600 thousand meters of agricultural land in the USA sold 389 billion dollars in total. All three numbers are lower than those 5 years ago. The decline in product prices is attributed to reasons such as climate change and the trade war with China. Besides, larger farms get most of the profits. Two-thirds of agricultural sales in 2017 go to 4 percent of total farms.

80 Acres Farms, a company from Hamilton, Ohio, and its sister company Infinite Acres, aim to completely change both agriculture and the supply chain. Mike Zelkind, CEO of 80 Acres Farms, thinks that the food industry is "completely corrupt" and says that the industry needs to be repaired again.

Zelkind and Tisha Livingston found the idea of change in 2015. Controlled environmental agriculture at the time, or more commonly known as indoor agriculture or vertical agriculture, was a relatively new industry. Vertical agriculture is like greenhouse farming; The product is grown indoors with artificial lights and other technologies. Zelkind and Livingston, who have a lot of experience in the food industry, have decided to change 3 key points to change the industry: We must grow the products differently; We must change the supply chain and distribution channels; we have to sell differently.

Thanks to indoor agriculture, products can be grown without pesticides. In addition, there are no seasonal expectations in outdoor agriculture or flooding or drought due to weather conditions.

The issue does not end there either, and the couple therefore decides to change their supply chain. For example, strawberry and tomato are sensitive to transportation, but in order to reach a food market department in the USA, an average of over 3 thousand kilometers must travel. In this case, they consume some of their expiration dates until the food reaches the market department. For this reason, 80 Acres brought their own farms closer to the markets. It currently has 6 operating sites, 1 in Alabama, 1 in North Carolina, 2 in Arkansas and Ohio each.

The third change is in product presentation. The two have decided that the best selling method is to taste their products. If your product does not taste good, the technology is useless. The company is 100 percent confident that the flavor difference can be distinguished between another product in the market and 80 Acres Farms products. The only problem, according to what has been said, is the slightly higher prices of the 80 Acres Farms.

Another important feature of Acres Farms is that robots and automation function both in the cultivation of products and in loading for shipment. The team worked for 5 years to do this job properly and eliminate errors.

Commercial upright agriculture began in the USA about 8 to 10 years ago. According to the data, only 1 percent of agricultural products in the U.S. are currently produced in vertical agricultural facilities. It is stated that this type of agriculture will be more costly than outdoor agriculture and it is said that vertical agriculture cannot replace normal agriculture. However, for regions where water or irrigation is inadequate or impossible, vertical farming seems to be a reasonable solution. Moreover, new technological developments have made vertical farming much cheaper compared to 10 years ago. The most important technological progress in recent years is that LED lights become available in agriculture.

80 Acres lost a lot of products until he brought his business here. Now they have started selling their technologies to other farms.

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