Vending machine salads that actually look great

If a 28 year old named Luke Saunders can sell salads at 7 bucks a pop out of a vending machine and make it work, he just discovered a new business model for vertical farms.

image via farmersfridge.com

image via farmersfridge.com

Though Saunders hasn’t done it yet (Luke, if you’re out there, get in touch!), he could easily gain complete control of his current supply chain for as little as $40K.  I’m pulling that number from an article I found right after reading about Saunder’s company, Farmer’s Fridge.  The idea for this post is a simple exercise in running the numbers so people start to get a bit more of a grounded appreciation for the potential of vertical farming.  After a pit stop in math land, I’ll get back to the business model I mentioned earlier.

The article with the $40k figure was about a rooftop garden on top of the Jonathan Club in downtown LA.  The manager of the garden claims that they built the facility for $40,000 and will be able to make 150K a year.  That would be a pretty incredible ROI, regardless of other costs (and I have to guess they already owned the space for instance).

From there, we’ll assume that both the 7$ from Saunders’ vending machine and the 150K raked in by the Jonathan Club are strictly retail figures and that they are scaled up from the cost of production at the same rate.  In other words, the assumption I’m making for ease of number crunching is that Saunders and the Jonathan Club mark their vegetables up by comparable amounts.  For what I want to show, it doesn’t matter if that assumption is exactly right, I think either way the results would be close, but it makes my math easy.

salad vending machine

That math is this: 150k could buy over 24,000 of Saunders’ salads.  That means, depending on margins, Saunders could sell at least that many salads without having to purchase the ingredients himself.

For a 40 grand investment, Saunders could earn $168,000 without having to spend money on materials by sourcing from his own garden.  Though there is certainly a cost to maintain the garden at that production rate that goes beyond the 40k, the potential is huge.

antioxidant salad

That potential is my point and it gets into the new business model I mentioned.

A lot of vertical farming articles focus on the potential of farms to supply restaurants and grocery stores, but what if they took out the middle man?  Farmer’s Fridge already has its own space.  Even if he didn’t build a vertical farm, by exploring building integrated agriculture, Saunders could take out that middle man.

While Saunders has employees and other costs of doing business, if he were able to leverage the rooftop space of his warehouse, or even incorporate vertical farming practices inside of it, he would be able to substantially cut his costs of raw materials and increase his income.

Instead of an intermediary restaurant or grocery store, Saunders would just sell his goods in vending machines throughout the city, with no labor costs.

Do you think that’s a good idea?  Are any vertical farms already experimenting with direct-to-consumer businesses?  Let me know by signing up for our mailing list and responding with any thoughts you have!

By the way…

Urban Vertical Project is developing a killer presentation template for an amazing vertical farm funding pitch and we’re going to start giving it away for free for a limited time!  It’s based off a real pitch we saw that got funded and we know you’re going to love it.  To hear about it before anyone else, sign up for our newsletter below (just your first name and email, and we really, really won’t send you too much stuff) and follow us on Twitter @proverticalfarm using the link on the right.

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Can you actually explain what makes LEDs so special?

LEDs are improving vertical farming like never before

Last week, the three scientists who invented blue light emitting diodes received the Nobel Prize.  It was certainly well deserved, as this was nothing short of a revolution for lighting.  image

That revolution began with their invention 20 years ago and has brought us the newest in efficient light emitting diode (LED) lighting.  These lights are so efficient that they have taken vertical farming from the pages of eco-utopian manifestos to tangible reality.

Navigant Research modeled a 63% adoption rate of LED lights for retrofitting projects by 2021.  The numbers speak for themselves.

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This is the first of a two-part piece that will explain what LEDs are in a way that anyone can understand.  First, I’m going to look at what ‘efficiency’ means for LEDs, and the implications of increased efficiency. Then, in part two, I want to show you the companies breaking new ground on the vertical farming applications of LEDs right now.  Click to the next page and let’s get started.