Article by Jennifer Kaplan, Bloomberg
According to Rick Byrd, the future of farming is tall, dirtless and local.
Byrd’s vision of skyscraper farms to feed city dwellers begins with a much different kind of crop: marijuana.
The 45-year-old is chief executive officer and founder of Pure Agrobusiness Inc., a company that sells equipment to grow legal cannabis, a market worth $6 billion in 2016 and expected to reach $50 billion by 2026, according to Cowen & Co.
Because cannabis has higher profit margins than food, and pot is mostly grown inside, Byrd said he hopes the innovations perfected by PureAgro, with the help of customer feedback, could one day revolutionize food production. It’s just a question of how much it costs.
Pot is “the perfect catalyst to bring in what I think really needs to change in farming,” Byrd said in an interview. “You can’t have the average produce truck going 1,500 miles to get to your plate. And there’s no way, obviously, to farm the amount of acres that we would need to feed New York City unless we go vertical.”
Byrd imagines a 100-story glass skyscraper filled with floors of stacked beds of fruits, vegetables and grain. The same technology that currently enables vertical indoor farms to raise primo weed can one day produce perfect tomatoes or succulent lettuce, Byrd said. Paper or mesh holds up the plants, substituting for soil. Powerful lights do the work now done by the sun, but better. Data calibrate the exact light spectrum and nutrients for the plants to thrive, and machines drip just enough water. Harvests are frequent — four or five a year, compared with one outdoor.