Connecting Indoor Farmers to Financing

August 23, 2019

Contained agriculture indoor growing

Connecting Indoor Farmers to Financing

The first time I saw an indoor farm was at an off the grid community in Taos, New Mexico.

At the time, I was driving across the U.S. contemplating my future and hanging out in an earthship, a passive solar house made of upcycled materials. It was a basic setup, some ungainly pipes and recycled rainwater for farming fish and lettuce. As I headed home to California, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. What if we scaled that up and put it in cities? Could it help feed the 9 billion humans projected to be alive in 2050?

The next five years I was busy with day jobs and managing a VC fund, but kept thinking about indoor farms that could feed cities across the globe. People kept telling me, “It will never work.” One day over coffee a VC friend rolled his eyes and said, “Look, you’re still crazy, but if you want to do this indoor ag stuff, you should just have an event and wait to see who turns up.” So we did.

We spent the next five years scaling the event — Indoor Ag-Con — as the industry came of age. There are now five times as many commercial-scale vertical farms, plant factories, and rooftop greenhouses than in 2015. We exited the business in late 2018 to three event industry professionals. They’re now hard at work expanding into areas that we could only have dreamed of even a few years’ ago.

Nowadays, our discussions are not about whether indoor agriculture will endure but how it can be used to transform the global food supply chain.

We saw how indoor ag successfully provided fresh, local produce and attracted start-ups and majors like Walmart and Emirates Airlines. We learned it made the food supply chain simpler, more sustainable, and more ethical. We witnessed firsthand how it gave growers a meaningful career alternative to being an office drone. We were ready to dive in.

We founded Contain Inc. with a mission to connect indoor farmers to financing

We work with growers in warehouses, greenhouses, and container farms to find lease financing for their equipment. According to Artemis, forty percent of indoor growers say that finding sufficient funding is their largest challenge. So far, using our technology and deep industry relationships, we’ve arranged leases for growers from a longstanding non-profit to professionals transitioning from other careers.We’ve interacted with over 300 indoor growers at this point and have come to know their needs well. Clearly, there was a need in the market, and we went looking for the right partners to help us fill it on a global scale.

To achieve our vision, we knew we needed more capital, more mentors, and more momentum. That’s why we turned to Techstars.

This July, Contain Inc. was accepted into Techstars’ Farm to Fork program, an accelerator sponsored by Cargill and Ecolab. Our three months of mentorship and innovation in St. Paul, Minnesota, this summer will help us leapfrog years’ worth of work and put our business plan on steroids.

Thanks to our new investors, our team is growing and we’re building custom tech tailored to meet growers’, vendors’, and lenders’ needs. Our mentors are challenging us to find new and better ways of improving capital access for indoor growers. Our first major milestone is a super-fast new website, complete with rebranding, that we launched earlier this week. Our lease applications are now fully online, simplifying the tedious funding process.

There’s plenty more ground to cover before demo day in October. What began with an earthship is ready to take off, and we can’t wait to share what we see along the way.

Want to learn more? Check explore the Contain website.

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