Green.org sat down with Alex Andrushevich, the founder of Evo-Farms, to learn how he is changing the status quo on hyperlocal produce. EvoFarms is a sustainable agriculture organization with the goal of providing customers with fresh, nutritious and locally grown produce using hydroponic technology. They are both providing hyperlocal produce, as well as developing their franchise model to scale the technology to the planet.
Alex, thanks for being here! Tell us a little bit about you and your background:
My name is Alex Andrushevich and I’m the founder of Evo-Farms. I grew up in a fisherman’s village in Spain where agriculture was the main driver of the local economy. At the young age of 11 I began the journey of learning code and electronic circuit design. In 2018, upon moving to the US, I discovered that importing produce from other continents was common practice and that produce could be held up for months at a time in transit – degrading its nutritional quality, taste, and producing unnecessary emissions along the way. Deforestation for agricultural use is limiting our ability to absorb CO2 from the air, which can be argued would naturally prevent global warming. In addition to that, 70% of our limited freshwater use goes towards wasteful traditional agricultural techniques.
I moved to the Bronx in 2018, and as I settled in, I was excited to explore all that my new neighborhood had to offer. But as the days passed, I quickly realized that access to fresh, healthy food was not something that was easily available in my community. I saw firsthand the struggles of food insecurity and how it impacted my neighbors and friends.
The limited options at the grocery stores and high prices at the farmer’s markets made it difficult for many people to afford nutritious meals. I watched as people were forced to rely on fast food and processed options just to get by. It was heart-breaking to see how something as basic as access to healthy food could be such a struggle for so many people.
That experience inspired me to take action and try to make a difference in my community. I began researching and learning about vertical farming and how it could potentially provide a solution to the food insecurity issues in my neighborhood. I started a hyperlocal vertical farm, working to bring fresh, affordable produce to the people in my community. It’s been a challenging journey, but seeing the positive impact it has had on my neighbors and their ability to access healthy food makes it all worth it.
That is why I founded Evo-Farms: to change the status-quo on sustainable, nutritious, and hyperlocal produce. We have developed our own proprietary hardware and software stack for vertical-farms, utilizing hydroponics and Controlled Environment Agriculture techniques to achieve green perfection. Our methods use 0 pesticides, 0 fertilizers, and 95% less water than traditional agriculture methods. The vertical farming aspect of our model allows One acre to provide the produce equivalent to between 10-20 acres of conventional production. – allowing us to place a growing location in any metropolitan area.
We are currently growing a variety of microgreens, leafy greens, and herbs – with our mushroom modules beginning operation in January. We sell fresh greens in the Bronx both directly to consumers via our online store, as well as to restaurants. We have recently released our daily vitamin supplement capsules – with no fillers, additives, and using only whole-foods that we grow ourselves. Our focus is on infrastructure affordability – making the construction of scalable vertical-farms more accessible to the general public. We plan to franchise our business model and technology to allow anyone who sees an opportunity for hyperlocal produce to open their vertical farm with virtually no knowledge of farming. That’s the power of high-tech automation.
On top of this – a lot of the produce available for purchase are genetically modified (GMO’s) to withstand extreme weathers, or resist pests – usually at the expense of nutrition and flavor. Even organic foods contain organic pesticides and fertilizers. Our indoor farming approach eliminates sharp weather changes or pests that can be a problem in the fields – and consequently allows us to put all our focus on health and taste.
Recent events have shed light on the fragility of the supply chain and highlighted the importance of having self-sufficiency. When it comes to food – this is twice as important. Hyperlocal vertical farms are the best way to alleviate and transition away from international supply chains to achieve food security for everyone.
By growing hydroponically indoors, we can grow food at any time of the year, and from any climate – regardless of the location or season.
What would you do with $1 Billion dollars?
If I had $1 Billion dollars – I would invest heavily in R&D across several fields that I believe will empower humans to combat adversities that might arise over the next century. 35% of the investments would span across renewable energies – mainly in solar, geothermal and fusion power. 15% would go towards purchasing agricultural land and converting it back into forests. 25% would be allocated to education and awareness programs to inform the general public on topics related to climate change and its impacts on their lives – such as food price inflation, the importance of food security, mental health issues spanning from nutritional deficiencies, and promoting a healthy, environmentally conscious lifestyle. The remaining 25% would be allocated to the construction of community owned vertical-farms in food-deserts in the US and select African nations.
Why do you think climate change and sustainability is such an important topic today?
Climate change is a critical issue today because it is already having significant impacts on daily aspects of our lives. Speaking within the scope of my field, the evidence of climate change is visible in the abnormal weather effects that increasingly destroy more crops every year. This is due to the crops being used to a certain climate for extended periods of time, and they are unable to adapt to the changing weather conditions. This is further amplified by increased punctual, severe weather conditions.
The Earth’s climate is changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily due to human activities such as burning fossil fuels, deforestation, and agricultural practices. 70% of the world’s fresh-water usage goes towards agricultural use, and in the US – 30% of this food is wasted. This is an unsustainable practice that will inevitably lead to increased food insecurity and geopolitical clashes between countries once the already scarce fresh-water resources begin to dwindle. Compounding this, By 2050, it is projected that over two-thirds of the world’s population, or around 7 billion people, will live in urban areas. This will present a significant challenge in terms of meeting the food needs of such a large population, as the trend of migration from rural to urban areas tends to occur as individuals or families become wealthier and living standards improve.
Ensuring that adequate and nutritious food is available for the growing urban populaton will require careful planning and implementation of strategies such as efficient food distribution systems and sustainable agriculture practices – and vertical farming CEA is king amongst these.
What do you envision your industry looking like 10 years from now?
Predicting the exact state of vertical farming a decade from now is challenging due to the dynamic nature of the field and the impact of various technological, economic, and societal factors. It is possible that the presence of compact vertical-farms will become commonplace in neighborhoods – These modules would allow for the production of fresh, locally-grown produce in urban areas where space for traditional agriculture may be constrained. The integration of artificial intelligence, robotics, and precision agriculture technologies may significantly contribute to the operation and management of vertical farms in the future.
Alternatively, it could be that modules small enough to fit in a household fridge, could become as commonplace in people’s homes as microwaves or wifi routers. Additionally, efforts to enhance the sustainability and energy efficiency of vertical farming may also be a focus in the coming years. The future development of vertical farming will depend on the success of current and future innovations, as well as the demands and needs of consumers and the broader market. And we will be playing a role in making scalable vertical farming accessible to everyone.
What can the average person do to make a difference?
There are several things that the average consumer can do to support vertical farming and help it become a more viable and widespread option for producing fresh, local produce: Buy produce from vertical farms: Look for produce that is grown at a vertical farm and support these farms by purchasing their products. This helps to demonstrate demand for their products and can encourage more vertical farms to open.
Spread the word: Share information about vertical farming with your friends, family, and social media followers. This can help to raise awareness about the benefits of vertical farming and encourage more people to support it. Support local and regional food systems: Look for produce grown in your local area or region, and support small and medium-sized farmers. This can help to build a stronger local food system, which can in turn support vertical farming and other sustainable agriculture practices.
Invest in vertical farming companies: If you are interested in investing in the vertical farming industry, consider supporting companies that are working to develop and scale vertical farming technologies. Get involved: If you are passionate about vertical farming, consider volunteering or working at a vertical farm, or getting involved in a local organization that supports vertical farming. This can be a great way to learn more about the industry and make a difference.