In an effort to maximize the freshness of Vertical Harvest products, our Microgreen team recently conducted a series of shelf life trials. Included in these first trials were some of our most popular microblends, including Citrus Blend and Spicy Mix.

The goal was to:

  1. Drive quality control and develop shelf turn-over targets for our microgreen blend products
  2. Make Vertical Harvest products easier for our grocery partners to manage by providing more accurate “Sell By” dates
  3. Develop a system by which we could test and improve shelf life for all Vertical Harvest produce

What was the top takeaway? 

The team, lead by Microgreens Associate Ava Reynolds, developed a Freshness Matrix that told us the exact windows of time products would stay the “Most Fresh” on grocery shelves and in a customer’s fridge. Our goal was that the end consumer could have at least four (4) days with the product at peak freshness.

For these initial microgreen blends, we determined that that window was 14 days at this “Most Fresh” level, which, working backward, means:

  • 4 days in customer refrigerator
  • 7 days in grocery store
  • 3 days in distribution transit/in the Vertical Harvest cold room

“This trial was valuable for developing a scale to judge product freshness that can hopefully be utilized in future shelf life trials and easily adapted to products beyond microgreens,” says Hannah Bouline, Vertical Harvest Farm Lead.

“What we learned in the trial will allow us to better understand and regulate our distribution radius for each product, which is imperative as we increase distribution distance and plan for replication of products in future greenhouses.”

Stay tuned as we conduct more tests and continue to improve ways of getting you the freshest greens possible — year-round!

While 2020 was a difficult year in so many ways, there were rays of hope. Part of what made 2020 a hopeful year for us at Vertical Harvest was that it was the year our work and mission seemed to really break through in the media. Below are our Top 5 press hits for 2020 (in cased you missed them!):

  1. CNN. Late in the year we were honored to discover that Vertical Harvest, our team of changemakers, and our CEO Nona Yehia were named a CNN Champion for Change in 2020. This award profiles 10 innovators leading the charge to a better world with new ideas and groundbreaking solutions.
  2. Matter of Fact with Soledad O’Brien. Early in the year, this detailed feature profiled how here at Vertical Harvest, our unique employment model is creating and expanding economic options and upward mobility for people with disabilities.
  3. News Center Maine. Our expansion to Westbrook, Maine was profiled on this local NBC feature, which underscored our goal to bring 1 million pounds of produce per year to greater Portland, Maine and surrounding areas.
  4. Edible Maine. This well-respected food publication in Maine focused on the importance of vertical farming in making cold climate communities more sustainable.
  5. Produce Grower. We started the year featured on the cover of this well-respected industry magazine, which covered the distinctive architecture off our greenhouse, as well as our Grow Well employment mission.

Keep your eyes peeled for even more coverage in early 2021. Exciting things are on the horizon!

We are excited to announce that our CEO, Nona Yehia, was selected for the inaugural advisory board of Indoor Ag-Con, the nation’s premier trade show for the indoor agriculture/vertical farming industry.

Although with 11 other thought leaders from across the agriculture supply chain – from grocers to commercial real estate — Nona will advise and help shape the educational conference and exhibition floor offerings of the May 2021 edition of Indoor Ag-Con and other new initiatives planned for the coming year.

Spotlighting Successful Indoor Agriculture Businesses

“For 2021, successful indoor agriculture business development strategies will be the primary focus for our event, says Brian Sullivan, co-owner, Indoor Ag-Con. “The insights and intelligence we’ll gather from these successful leaders of indoor agriculture, as well as a number of the sectors our attendees and exhibitors hope to do business with, will go a long way in shaping meaningful content, networking and exhibition opportunities.”

Vertical Harvest’s singular vertical greenhouse structure, integrated employee model, and thoughtful growth strategy make it unique in the indoor agriculture industry, which makes  Nona’s voice crucial in helping to craft this content. “Our Grow Well model and our commitment to employ underserved populations is unique in indoor agriculture,” Nona says. “I’m excited to bring that perspective to the table.”

For 2021, Indoor Ag-Con will co-locate with The National Grocers Association (NGA) Show, the leading trade show and conference for independent grocers. The combined event will be held at the new Caesars Forum Convention Center in Las Vegas from May 16-18, 2021.

Other Advisory Board member include:

  • Samuel Bertram, CEO and Co-Founder, OnePointOne, Inc.
  • Julie Emmett, Senior Director, Retail Partnerships Plant Based Foods Association
  • Greg Ferrara, President & CEO, National Grocers Association
  • Henry Gordon Smith, CEO & Managing Director, Agritecture
  • Marni Karlin, Executive Director, CEA Food Safety Coalition
  • Tracy Lee, Division Lead, CEA Department, Sakata Seed Company
  • Jody McGinness, Executive Director, Hemp Industries Association
  • Tim McGuinness, Sterling Advisory Group & Former SVP, International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC)
  • Chris Nemchek, President, Coach Global Solutions & Former SVP, Specialty Food Association
  • Matt Roy, Vice President of Business Development Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA), Tanimura & Antle
  • E. Austin Webb, CEO & Co-Founder, Fifth Season, Powered By Robotany

Podcasts are a booming business nowadays, lending insight and introspection on topics far and wide. Nona Yehia, our co-founder and CEO, has been a popular guest recently on programs as diverse as The Evolving Digital Self, which explores conscientious use of technology, to Soul of a Leader, which explores leadership styles that uplift and embrace people.

Evolving Digital Self Podcast

In her conversation with Dr Heidi Forbes Oste of The Evolving Digital Self, Nona discussed the power of architecture to be a vehicle for social change, and shared why providing a career path to community members with disabilities is vital to Vertical Harvest’s mission. “The disabled community is the largest in the nation, and one that anyone could become a part of in the blink of an eye,” she said. 

Oste heralded the work of the Vertical Harvest team as, “not just using technology in a cool way, but using it in a way that looks at the full systemic perspective of what it can do.” Nona agreed that while technology makes life easier for most people, for those in the disabled community, it truly makes life possible.

Listen to this fascinating conversion here, or download from your favorite podcast player.

Vertical Harvest is paving the way to an even more sustainable future with two recent changes:

  1. Transforming the vast majority of our produce waste into fertilizer, and
  2. Switching to 99% compostable packaging 

Greenhouse Waste = Fertilizer

Working with WyoFarm Composting, each week we send 320 gallons of produce waste to decompose into fertilizer instead of rotting in a landfill. Most of what we use to grow food — cellulose medium, peat moss plugs, hemp — and our vegetable waste now composts down into a substance that will be used to grow even more food. “It feels great to contribute to this full circle,” says Molly Belk, Vertical Harvest Packaging Coordinator.

Composting can help tackle global warming by diverting organic waste away from landfills where it produces methane. Decomposed waste then creates a natural fertilizer for plants that can replace nitrogen fertilizers, which produce nitrous oxide, an extremely potent greenhouse gas. It’s a win-win all around.

A Shift to Plastic-Free Packaging

Vertical Harvest also is converting to 99% compostable packaging made by Good Natured. All of our microgreens are now packaged in this compostable, plastic-free option. Durable, plant-based, and with a built-in snap seal, your Vertical Harvest greens will stay fresh in your fridge for days. We currently are in the process of transitioning our lettuce packaging, as well, and hope to have all of our packaging updated in 2021.