At AeroFarms, Ed Harwood has created a new model for growing food by taking all the elements that make farming possible — sunlight, soil, rain — and making them unnecessary.
“The preconceived notions we have are the most invisible obstacles, they are the seeming certitudes that shackle our innovation.”
There was a time that Ed Harwood wasn’t sure he could continue with his operations. He knew, “As with all entrepreneurial adventures, it takes funding to succeed.” But luck was on his side. He says, “After mothballing the operation, I was discovered by a venture capitalist who thought AeroFarms was the agriculture of the future and helped us move ahead rapidly.”
Presented with AeroFarm’s method, Ed says most people express “Fascination. No soil and sun catches them as almost impossible.” While experimenting with new methods for gardening, he realized he needed to rethink what was possible. He says, “I grew up with some gardening. I learned that seeds were planted in dirt and needed watering. The dirt had to be loose to ease root development. So when we explored using no soil, this knowledge got in the way.” Through trial and error, he eventually discovered that they were “able to simplify the whole process.” That process is a laundry list of some amazing discoveries.
Ed found that using LED lights let him adjust the spectra to the precise window necessary for maximizing yield and quality while simultaneously reducing energy consumption. The smaller size of LED also makes more efficient use of limited space — modular units can be stacked on top of each other. The water is misted directly on the roots requiring less water than conventional farming or hydroponics, and produces almost no waste since it is all recycled back into the system. Because the plants mature at a faster rate and are grown indoors, there is no need for pesticides — the 18-21 day maturation is faster than the pest cycle. All of this results in leafy greens that can be grown year round, in any city, that are safe, organic, local, fresh, and of the highest quality. By scaling farming down into a high-density, indoor operation, aerofarming may indeed be poised for a future where natural resources like land and water are more scarce.