ONO Exponential Farming 2022: AI-Driven, Sustainable Farming
Giuseppe Pasciuti, marketing strategist at ONO Exponential Farming, gives us insight into the revolutionary technology that’s shaping the future of farming.
How has the evolution of farming shaped your business?
Our background actually revolves around providing technology for industrial automation. We only became involved in the farming industry in 2018.
One of our businesses was intralogistics, which includes optimizing, integrating, automating, and managing the logistical flow of information and material goods within a production process. We patented our concept of Intelligent Warehousing, where the goods move to the people, and not the other way around.
This opportunity led us to think about different functionalities where we could use this new process. We were then introduced to vertical farming and the realization that food production would have to change dramatically over the next decade. New technologies would be necessary to feed the population while taking into account factors such as climate change and water availability.
We started to research the concept of Jurassic vertical farming which had existed for around 20 years. We saw that there was a need for automation in processes where humans weren’t required.
Keeping this in mind, we took into consideration the existing technologies and interviewed numerous entrepreneurs who had failed in vertical farming for various reasons including lack of profitability.
We started to analyze these problems and tried to find a solution to all these hurdles. We came up with a brand-new way of vertical farming. To date, we’ve developed seven patents covering the various elements of innovation introduced, and we’re continuing to develop new ones thanks to the continuous refinement that generates a domino effect from a technological point of view.
Can you tell us more about your new way of vertical farming?
The two main areas of interest are the introduction of robotics, whereby people were replaced by technology, and secondly, taking away all agronomic knowledge in the farming process.
By using artificial intelligence algorithms and by changing the paradigms of traditional farming, we can create a machine that can produce food on its own.
The machine is in control of all the elements that would normally be left to nature: water, sun, and nutrients. The result is phenomenal. This means that the basil pesto that’s best produced naturally in Liguria, can be produced in Tokyo or Siberia.
The climatic and environmental conditions necessary for its optimal production can be monitored and controlled by our technology. We’re able to reproduce all the single factors that allow that basil seed to be what we expect it to be!
What does ONO Exponential Farming offer its clients?
Presently, we’re a commercial product and we sell our farms. We sell not only the infrastructure (hardware and software) but also all the other services connected to the infrastructure.
For example, if a company is interested in farming specific plants to extract molecules for the production of medicinal drugs, we carry out all the research to create a protocol or recipe that the machine will use to achieve the expected results.
We’re able to predict the result at the end of the process, which means that we can standardize the production all year round, while omitting concerns of seasonality, availability of water, and other factors.
How competitive is this sector?
Our industry is still very young, and while we do have competitors, they’re not completely comparable to our concept. No standard’s been completely consolidated yet. It’s a sector that’s growing exponentially and billions of dollars are being invested.
Many companies that are going into this sector are actually farmers, meaning they develop their technology while simultaneously growing their produce. We’re technology providers so we enable new companies to produce food for their distribution channels.
In terms of competition in technology, our competitors are few and haven’t yet reached the levels of technological expertise that we’ve achieved.
Which sectors do you work with?
Our main focus is companies in the pharma and cosmetics industries – companies that have struggled to find the raw materials they need to produce pharmaceutical drugs or cosmetics. We allow them the opportunity to upstream in the supply chain.
An example could be a Pharma company engaged in the COVID-19 vaccine production. Vaccines can be produced in plants such as tobacco, thanks to advanced genetic engineering procedures.
Essentially, the DNA of tobacco plants is modified to trigger vaccine production which can then be extracted from the leaves. This genetic engineering is similar to what’s currently
done in yeast or bacteria, but in plants, we have the strong advantage of producing biomass
and vaccine by exploiting the “green” photosynthetic process, assimilating CO₂.
So we provide the technology that enables a company like Pfizer or AstraZeneca to produce new drugs for the market.
The reason we focus on pharma and cosmetics, rather than vegetables, is because the price point is simply too high due to the huge consumption of energy involved. This would mean targeting a niche market.
Currently, we feel that our best bet would be to focus on high-margin products (pharma and cosmetics), and later on, we can diversify into vegetable farming.
How do you see the future of Agri-Tech?
The future’s very bright. The level of financial investment into the AgTech sector in 2020 was around $156 billion, including $1.2 billion in vertical farming. This is expected to grow to $35 billion by 2025.
In terms of agriculture, demand is higher than the supply and will continue to evolve this way. Agri-tech is addressing a problem that’s becoming bigger and bigger and if we look at current investments, the focus is on two points; sustainability and food.
What’s your vision for the future of ONO Exponential Farming?
ONO Exponential Farming is redefining the concept of agriculture. We live in a world where water is an ever scarcer and more precious resource, where land now exhausted and polluted can no longer sustain the demands of an ever-increasing population, and where what we eat is fundamental for the protection of our health.
We cannot and we will not simply stand by and watch. The crops from our farms will be the fruit of innovative and collaborative production processes that will have a positive impact on our health and the health of the world we live in.
Our vision is to be the market leader in technology development for indoor farming by 2025. We won’t stop with one concept and are already thinking about other concepts that address a market where farmers might one day be wearing white lab coats and goggles.
We want to be considered the point of reference for technology development in indoor farming!
This is not a dream.