Old McDonald had an indoor farm E I E I O. Wait what? Indoor farm?
Believe it or not, indoor farming is the wave of the future. Now you’re probably trying to wrap your head around the logistics of something like this, and that’s cool … so am I as I write this article. But have no fear, Bowery—a startup based in New York—is bringing fresh, post-organic produce to folks like you and me.
Dying to learn more about this innovative startup? Check out Irving Fain’s, Bowery’s CEO and Co-Founder, amazing responses to some questions by yours truly, StarterNoise.
So give me the backstory, what inspired the creation of Bowery?
I’m a big believer in technology’s ability to solve difficult problems. After building my last company, I really wanted to spend my time working on an area that I was personally passionate about and a set of problems that were broadly important. Agriculture sits at the epicenter of so many global issues today. Over 70% of our global water supply goes to agriculture, we use over 700 million pounds of pesticides each year in the US alone, and industrial farming practices have caused a loss of over 30% of the arable farmland in the last 40 years. Something has to change. At the same time, our global population is growing to 9-10 billion people by 2050, and we’ll need 50%-70% more food to feed that population, 70%-80% of which will be in and around cities. After becoming obsessed with the question of how to provide fresh food more efficiently and sustainably to urban environments, I teamed up with my co-founders David Golden and Brian Falther to build Bowery.
What has been the biggest pit and peak of launching Bowery?
I don’t know that I’d call it a “pit,” but we’ve been building Bowery for almost three years, and wanted to wait until our farm was up and running and our product was at the highest quality before we shared what we’re up to with the general public. The wait was difficult at times but worth it. On the other hand, we’re very proud of the work we’ve done and a peak has definitely been hearing positive feedback from consumers, as well as people in the food and investment communities, about Bowery’s mission and product. Watching the outpouring of enthusiasm for what we’re building has been incredible. We feel fortunate to be working on such an important problem and at a company with so much potential.
How did you secure funding? and What is one piece of advice you would give millennials looking to pitch to investors?
Having built a venture-backed business before, I know firsthand how difficult fundraising can be. With Bowery, we were very fortunate to be overwhelmed by interest from the investment community early on in the process. We focused on making sure we brought investors on board who were both experienced in our stage of company (e.g.. First Round Capital) as well as in our industry (e.g. Matt Salzberg, founder & CEO of Blue Apron). We’re excited to have such incredible partners on board. My biggest piece of advice for young entrepreneurs looking to raise money is something we did at Bowery: build relationships early on. Mark Suster from Upfront Ventures has a great quote: “invest in lines and not dots.” It’s helpful not only for the entrepreneur, but also for the investor to begin building a relationship long before you may be ready to raise money. This gives both parties a chance to get to know one another. Plus, the investor has a chance to watch the progress of your business develop over time vs. make a judgement based on a single and limited data point.
What is one way you have integrated technology with farming to create more sustainable produce options to consumers?
We designed our proprietary operating system, BoweryOS, specifically to monitor our plants 24/7 and deploy machine learning on vast amounts of data taken in from vision systems and an extensive network of sensors throughout our farm. This provides complete visibility into every stage of plant growth and allows us to continuously monitor the health and quality of our plants, providing each plant exactly what it needs and nothing more. This also drastically reduces the risk of human error and waste in the growing and harvesting processes. This precision is part of what allows us to be 100+ times more productive on the same footprint of land and use 95% less water than traditional agriculture.
What three words best describe Bowery?
Optimistic, Modern & Pure
Describe Bowery’s work culture?
Our team is made up of experts across the many different fields required to build a modern farming company, from software engineering to agricultural science. We are passionate about improving an industry central to many of this generation’s global problems and while we work extremely hard and care deeply about the work we’re doing, we also make sure to have fun along the way. Given that so much of what we’re building is new, we respect everyone’s perspective, regardless of whether they are an expert in a certain area. Most importantly, we recognize that great companies are the result of great teams made up of great people.
How large is your team?
Currently, we have 12 people on our team and are growing quickly.
What can we expect to see from Bowery in the future?
Bowery is on a mission to provide better access to fresh food in urban environments by changing the face of agriculture. Right now we’re focused on our first farm in New Jersey and are starting to plan for our next one. We’ve intentionally designed our technology and systems to maximize our ability to scale Bowery quickly, profitably, and effectively. It’s important that our farms are located close to the point of consumption in order to deliver produce at the height of freshness and flavor. Ultimately, we hope to serve as many cities as we can throughout the country and around the world.
Just for kicks and giggles, what’s your favorite vegetable and how do you like to cook it.
I absolutely love Bowery arugula. While it’s perfect just as it is without any dressing or preparation at all, I do enjoy a simple arugula omelette in the mornings before I start the day.
Better yet, what’s your drink of choice when eating a delicious salad?
Well, that all depends on what time a day it is 🙂 If it’s the middle of the day, I love a cold seltzer. If it’s after work I’d take a bitter, hoppy IPA.
Think you’d grab your greens from Bowery? Tweet @StarterNoise.
Katherine is a newbie to Denver. She recently completed her Masters in Peace and Justice Studies at the University of San Diego. When she isn’t trying to save the world, Katherine is all about trying any and all delicious foods, hitting up the beach but not actually swimming (deathly afraid of sharks), and taking as many hikes as humanly possible.