Q&A Christine Zimmermann-Lössl - Vertical Farming.
Photo: Freight Farms.
How we humans grow our food will radically change in our near future.
When we're talking about farmers today, we picture them as people living far, far away from the city, waking up at 5 in the morning to milk their cows. This is the image we have learned for the past 100 years, before today's food factories were born and everything went from small farms to a mass industry focusing on quantity rather than quality. Now everything is changing again and this time it looks like quality comes first. And that farming moves into the city, closing the transport gap , you can have fresh salad on your plate that was harvested only half hour ago 365 days a year without pesticides. And even more interesting: people can now easily grow their own sallad right in their homes on the wall.
We are talking to Christine Zimmermann-Lössl co-founder and Chairwoman of the board at The Association for Vertical Farming, the organization you contact with all questions when starting up as a vertical farmer.
Q: Where did you grew up and what made you choose the career you have today, did it all come just natural or was it a life-changing moment that made you choose your path?
"My academic background is studies of political science, Chinese and philosophy at Ludwig Maximilian University - that expressed my interest in the world and people. I wanted always to change the world into a better place and thought if I can understand them better (philosophy) and political systems and how they work I could find a way to impact. Well the reality of life shows the limits but also inspires me again and again. Life changing moments were definitely the decision to continue my studies in Taiwan to a get a first-hand experience of China. There were people in my life who had a strong impact on me and I probably changed their life they mine."
"I grew up in the Southern part of Germany and politics of the late 68 as well as understanding our Nazi history wanted me to break up with the conservative middle-class living style. I believe that our soul is choosing the circumstances to be born in to grow, so the challenges I met (illness and others) led me the way I went and each day I discover new. In 2013 we founded The Association of Vertical Farming, my son Max inspired me when he came back from his 1 year trip to New Zealand with the book of Dickson Despommier and said that this is what he wanted to study and go for. So I got into it and we saw the need at this time 2012/13 that little awareness and knowledge was existing so to change that we founded together with 6 other young enthusiasts the nonprofit Association for Vertical Farming creating a platform for like-minded people and companies. Max is also co-founder of Agrilution , smart gardening solutions to grow organic, fresh & clean greens at home all year round."
Q: What is Vertical Farming and how did this movement start?
"It’s a bit of many things - agriculture, high tech, urban area food production, science, a new industry, lifestyle, decentralization, new architecture. Basically, it is a controlled growing environment for plants, insects, mushrooms suing less land and resources than any other existing agriculture. Vertical Farming certainly has the power to bring about disruptive innovation and can change the existing food chain. It all started in New York with Dickson Despommier at Columbia University 1999 with a student course that was followed by the book The Vertical Farm 2010. Singapore with Sky Greens took the idea forward in Asia, the city went from 7% vegetables grown locally to today producing 0,5 tonnes a day and is now initiating a new supportive policy.
Vertical Farming is evolving from an emerging movement into an industry organization ready for the next steps. To quote Alibaba founder and philanthropist Jack Ma: “The next generation of globalization should be inclusive and create opportunities for young people to get involved. We need now to collaborate on standards and define sustainable benchmarks, as we do at the AVF with the SURE network."
Q: What do you think is the future of vertical farming?
"There is no way around VF, as we have limited resources but a growing population to feed and we need to do this effectively, reliable and with sustainable methods or else we will disrupt our ecosystems till it will fall apart. Climate change is forcing us to get agriculture production more independent from weather impact. We need to build up trust in the food supply again and VF gives the consumer exactly this access."
Q: Do you see any obstacles that you need to tackle? For ex. How to convince farmers that today grow in soil, to change to this method, is this anything you need to consider?
"At this moment high initial investment is a major obstacle as well as the proof of different successful business models. Only in Japan, we can see successful running so-called plant factories (profitable 30%of 197) with several years of operations and a 0,6% lettuce market share."
Q: What do you think about Climate Change? Have you seen any changes with your own eyes?
"I think climate change is an existential threat to our planet and a core concern and we should act on all levels.
I have experienced the impact of climate change during my time in North West China (Shaanxi) as rep for a German foundation. Desert took over year by year villages, grassland, rivers, people had to leave their ancestors place to survive. We started to plant trees with the Women Federation to fight against this and erosion of fertile land."
Q: What makes you happy?
"People with a good heart and intentions. Nature. Dogs, cats, horses most animals, a good book, a sky full of stars, music."
If you are interested in starting your own farm, we include inspirational links to some below:
So back to the fact that how we produce our food is fast changing, according to B.Good better food is a key to a better life. Better food means source sustainability, cook seasonally, support your local communities and do good together, this is something that makes our heart tick: collaboration is the way to a healthy future. Vertical Farming is a fast growing business and we would encourage all you female entrepreneurs to roll up your sleeves and step into this area: we only have one first vertical farming in Sweden and we would need many more!