Agribusiness  November 24, 2023

Intelligent Growth Solutions plants seeds for growth

Vertical farming makes strong appearance in North America

LOVELAND — Edinburgh, Scotland-based Intelligent Growth Solutions opened its 10-person office at The Forge in Loveland this year in the middle of the U.S. to be able to serve its North American front.

The agritech company, which plans to move to a larger office there to accommodate a staff of 50 by 2024 and eventually grow to 200, also plans to expand from leafy greens and herbs to things like grapes, blueberries and maybe even cannabis. The company opened the second headquarters to grow its reputation with North American farmers and growers interested in the indoor growing market.

“It’s somewhat of a slow process. We’ll pick up steam once we have visible solutions in the marketplace,” said Steve Gereb, head of Operations North America for Intelligent Growth Solutions. “A lot of people are sitting on the sidelines seeing how the other customers do before making an investment.”

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Intelligent Growth Solutions, founded in 2013 and fortified by a portfolio of six patent families, specializes in the production and distribution of vertical farming IGS Growth Towers. The innovative systems serve as a comprehensive solution for farmers and growers, enabling them to cultivate crops from seed to harvest or to function as plant nurseries for starter plants. Starters include everything from deciduous and conifer trees to most recently roses. Plants such as wheat or corn are better suited to traditional agriculture in open fields.

The Growth Towers, which operate as a smart system, provide an automated indoor, year-round ecosystem able to interact with external energy sources for optimized power usage. The system is able to manage light, temperature, relative humidity, water and nutrients and keep CO2 levels balanced, so that the plants are high quality with larger and more consistent yields. Pesticides and crop washing also are not needed, less water is used, and crop cycles are 30-50% higher.

“There are no seasons in our towers, so you can grow food year around,” Gereb said. “You can grow crops regardless of the weather and the amount of sunlight.”

The IGS Growth Trays are filled with seeded propagation trays sourced from a nearby germination chamber. Leveraging the built-in automation of the IGS tower, these trays are meticulously positioned within the tower, which can reach heights of up to 40 feet and accommodate as many as 86 growth trays.

Steve Gereb, head of North American operations for Intelligent Growth Solutions. Courtesy IGS

 The trays, which are the size of traditional 8-by-4-foot horticulture benches, are programmed with a recipe to dictate the amount of lighting, frequency of the spectrum and optimal nutrient solution to help the plants grow. The trays also can be internet-of-things-enabled for remote monitoring that uses sensors and cameras.

“There’s no reason to handle crops until they’re ready to harvest. It saves a lot of labor,” Gereb said. “When you talk to growers, their biggest concern is to get labor because of the shortages.”

Customers can tweak existing recipes to alter flavor, increase growth rates and stimulate blooming, Gereb said. The recipes are able to produce plants that are more vigorous and resilient than from traditional seed, plus fresher with a longer shelf life, he said. 

“We give them that control with our towers,” Gereb said.

If Intelligent Growth Solutions doesn’t have a recipe for a particular plant, the company will do a crop trial to see how it does in a Growth Tower. Trials have led to the addition of tree starters and strawberries and potatoes a year ago and roses this year. 

The plants can be grown seed to harvest or placed in the tower as if it were a nursery, then moved to a greenhouse. Tree seedlings also can be grown more quickly and cost effectively than by using traditional methods, he said.

“We work with (farmers and growers) on the design of the vertical farm, deliver it to the farm and train them on how to use it,” Gereb said. “One of the things our CEO likes to say is, it’s not a transaction; it’s a 10-year-plus relationship.”

Most of Intelligent Growth Solutions’ customers are in Europe with about 80 towers already sold in North America, eight deployed so far and another 10 expected in January 2024.

Intelligent Growth Solutions considered several locations to expand its market and build its North American headquarters, including Oregon and Massachusetts.

“I don’t think you can get much more central than Colorado,” Gereb said, pointing out other advantages of the state, including a highly educated workforce. “Loveland offers unparalleled quality of life for families and a cool place for customers to visit. Outside the fact it’s beautiful and an economic powerhouse, we know we were making sound business decisions.”

The Forge — the former Hewlett-Packard facility in Loveland — is not just a work space but a technology and innovation hub that offers networking opportunities for Intelligent Growth Solutions to establish business partnerships, Gereb said. 

“We need all of our farmers to be more efficient and more effective to meet all of the food needs of the future,” Gereb said.

Plants are grown in trays in controlled settings in Intelligent Growth environments. Courtesy IGS

LOVELAND — Edinburgh, Scotland-based Intelligent Growth Solutions opened its 10-person office at The Forge in Loveland this year in the middle of the U.S. to be able to serve its North American front.

The agritech company, which plans to move to a larger office there to accommodate a staff of 50 by 2024 and eventually grow to 200, also plans to expand from leafy greens and herbs to things like grapes, blueberries and maybe even cannabis. The company opened the second headquarters to grow its reputation with North American farmers and growers interested in the indoor growing market.

“It’s somewhat of a…

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