When Farming Goes Indoors: How Gotham Greens, iUNU and Vertical Oceans are Trying to Protect Our Food and Climate

Vertical Farming
Vertical Farming

Our food and climate have a fraught relationship. Globally, agriculture generates 31% of CO2 equivalent emissions, accounts for 70% of freshwater withdrawals, and drives 90% of deforestation. At the same time, climate change impacts like drought, heat, and flooding increase the risk of crop failure and famines. If farming is a risk to the climate and at risk from the climate, could we solve both problems by bringing it indoors?

To find out, the  SOSV Climate Tech Summit (Oct. 25-26) welcomed a panel of indoor and vertical farming entrepreneurs. You can tune into their conversation in the video below.

Viraj Puri is co-founder and CEO of Gotham Greens, an urban farming company that grows fresh produce in climate-controlled hydroponic greenhouses. Gotham claims to use 95% less water and 97% less land than conventional farms. By 2023, Gotham Greens will own and operate 13 greenhouses totaling more than 40 acres (1.8 million square feet) across nine states. Gotham recently closed a $310 million Series E led by BMO Impact Investment Fund and Ares Management and acquired Fresh2O Growers, a 540,000 sq ft greenhouse operation in Virginia, doubling its production capacity.

Allison Kopf is Chief Growth Officer of IUNU (pronounced “you knew”), which uses AI and industrial computer vision to automate indoor farming. Picture a robot on a ceiling track that scans the  greenhouse, spotting problems areas or crops that are ready for harvest. Allison was founder and CEO of Artemis, a cultivation management platform (CMP), acquired by IUNU in September 2021. To date, IUNU has raised $45.7 million from investors including Lewis & Clark AgrifoodS2G VenturesCeres Partners, and Astanor Ventures.

John Diener is co-founder and CEO of Vertical Oceans, which produces sustainable seafood in vertical aqua towers managed by algorithms. A graduate of SOSV’s IndieBio startup program, Vertical Oceans launched in Singapore, which produces only 10% of its own food but aims to reach 30% by 2030 as part of its climate change adaptation plan (more on that in our session with Minister Grace Fu). With a $3.5 million seed round led by Khosla Ventures, Vertical Oceans is initially targeting the shrimp market – America’s favorite seafood – which is expected to grow from $31 billion in 2021 to $85 billion by 2030.

Larissa Zimberoff, a Bay Area journalist who covers food, technology, and business, moderated the panel. She is the author of Technically Food: Inside Silicon Valley’s Mission to Change What We Eat.   

Will indoor and vertical farming scale up enough to make a difference for the climate and global food security? Can it compete with conventional farming on cost and quality? 

Learn more about the Summit.

The Speakers

Viraj Puri photo

Viraj Puri

Viraj Puri co-founded Gotham Greens, a pioneer in indoor agriculture and a leading fresh food company. A Certified B Corporation™, Gotham Greens farms with the future in mind, delivering long-lasting and delicious leafy greens, herbs, salad dressings, dips and cooking sauces all year round to retail, restaurant and foodservice customers. Over the past decade under Viraj’s leadership, Gotham Greens has grown to be one of the largest and most commercially successful indoor farming companies in the world.

Allison Kopf photo

Allison Kopf

Allison Kopf is the Chief Growth Officer at IUNU, the leading Artificial Intelligence (AI) company serving the Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) industry. Previously, Kopf founded CEA software company Artemis, which was acquired by IUNU. Artemis won the highly coveted Disrupt Cup at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco in 2015. Kopf was named one of Forbes 2019 30 Under 30 as well as the 2021 Global Women Fresh “Woman of Impact.” 

John Diener photo

John Diener

John Diener is a driven entrepreneur with a passion for food sustainability. In 2020 he co-founded Vertical Oceans, a vertical aquaculture system revolutionizing seafood production using cutting-edge technologies. Vertical Oceans recently closed an over-subscribed $3.5m Seed Round led by Khosla Ventures. Before founding Vertical Oceans, John held senior positions in the AgriFood Tech industry, including COO of an insect protein startup and CEO of an aquaculture nutrition and genetics company.

Larissa Zimberoff photo

Larissa Zimberoff

Larissa Zimberoff is an author and journalist covering the intersection of food, business and technology. Her book, Technically Food: Inside Silicon Valley’s Mission to Change What We Eat, is out now. She’s written on the promise of fake eggs, the potential of peas, and how artificial intelligence saved a winery. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Wired, Time, Bloomberg Businessweek, Insider and many more publications.