A Sunshine Coast-based vertical farming technology company has sprouted up in a globally competitive marketplace to secure a $55 million contract with a Canadian customer, sowing the seeds for future prospects as negotiations continue in other jurisdictions.
Vertical Farm Systems was founded by Ashley Thomson and John Leslie in 2009 when they first saw the opportunity to engineer a system that would allow producers to grow crops indoors year-round with no need for chemicals or pesticides and significantly lower water use.
Their XA Warehouse System will allow the undisclosed Canadian grower to use their automated technology to grow leafy greens indoors across multiple levels.
"It may seem like we’ve come out of nowhere, but we’ve been working on this technology for almost a decade," says Thomson, Vertical Farm Systems' managing director.
"Now we’re able to take it to market we can see the massive global potential.
"In addition to our Canadian customer, we have sold units to growers in New Zealand, the UK and we’re currently negotiating multi-million dollar deals in the UAE and the USA."
The Vertical Farm Systems XA Series Warehouse System is the result of nine years of intensive development and commercial testing, with the technology allowing producers to grow a wide range of leafy greens and herbs indoors in an almost entirely automated system that only needs to be operated by one person.
The company - located in North Arm, south of Eumundi - claims its system can produce 400kg of leafy greens per week, uses 95 per cent less water than open field farming, offers lower transport costs as it can be installed anywhere that offers suitable power and water supplies.
"Strategic positioning close to the point of sale or in distribution hubs dramatically decreases the time from harvest to consumer and reduces costs for refrigerated storage and transport," the company states.
"Over a year, a small XA Series system with 500 square metres of building floor area can produce the same harvest as eight acres of traditional farming."
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