Local Roots Scales Up After Cracking the Code for Vertical Farming

Local Roots Scales Up After Cracking the Code for Vertical Farming

Sabrina Theocharides, Local Roots


With an additional 2.5 billion people expected to live on planet earth by 2050, along with increased environmental stresses, productive farmland shrinking and a population migrating to cities, efficient urban farms have the opportunity to help feed the world. 

Built inside upcycled 40’ shipping containers, Local Roots’ TerraFarms™ grow better than organic produce year-round in nearly any geographic area, using 99 percent less water, no pesticides and at the same cost as traditional farms. “What we are doing is not a thought experiment. We are advancing agricultural technology to solve major problems in today’s food supply chain and we’re deploying a solution that already works.” said Eric Ellestad, co-founder and CEO of Local Roots. This solution has led the company to acceptance into the UN World Food Programme and membership in the Creative Destruction Lab with the world’s top technologists. The company will deploy more than 100 new TerraFarms in 2018 and hire 150 new team members as they continue to grow into the next year.  

Leveraging the best of plant science and engineering, Local Roots has created a proprietary system that is the optimal environment for plants to flourish. As a result, these high-tech TerraFarms yield ultra-nutrient dense produce that is equivalent to five acres of farmland or 4,000 heads of lettuce every 10 days, 600 times more produce than the equivalent footprint of an outdoor farm. Local Roots couples this with a unique modular approach that enables it to quickly deploy and scale large numbers of TerraFarms, a key factor in feeding Earth’s rapidly growing population. 

Local Roots was recently selected by the UN World Food Programme to field test its TerraFarms in emergency and development contexts. This is a critical step in fulfilling its mission to improve global health by building a better food system. 

While constantly being leading innovators in their field, Local Roots has also announced that they have been accepted to work with some of the brightest minds in technology through the Artificial Intelligence (AI) program at the University of Toronto’s Creative Destruction Lab. Local Roots is already using machine learning, computer vision and AI to achieve its audacious goals. Through CDL, the Local Roots team will work with leaders in AI to apply this bleeding edge of technology to agriculture. The solution to growing global agricultural problems can only be solved by technological innovation, something Local Roots always strives for. 

Lastly, Local Roots is partnering with a major U.S. retailer for a large-scale deployment of its TerraFarms the details of which will be announced early next year. Existing Local Roots customers are Tender Greens, Mendocino Farms and SpaceX. Local Roots has already raised $10.5 million to date from FoodTech Angels; Jerome Metivier, Managing Director, PepsiCo Ventures; Sequel Capital Management; Green Planet Global and others. Local Roots’ Series A financing is expected to close early 2018.

Throughout 2018, Local Roots will add more than 150 team members in the Greater Los Angeles area mostly focused on plant scientists, engineers and production experts. To help scale the company, Local Roots has brought on Marissa Peretz, founder of Silicon Beach Talent and a former Tesla recruiting leader who helped Tesla grow from approximately 200 employees to thousands. 

Additionally, Local Roots is expanding into a spacious 165,000 square feet manufacturing and headquarter facility in Vernon, Calif., 15 times larger than its original space. We’re excited to be expanding as the company is hiring on new employees and the team is growing stronger. The first facility will remain focused on R&D and product development. January 2018 marks the start of manufacturing for the more than 100 new TerraFarms in the new location. To scale the farms, Local Roots has hired manufacturing talent such as a former SpaceX rocket and spacecraft manufacturing and engineering director to design the systems and processes for the mass production of the TerraFarm. 

Local Roots engineers and plant scientists have created the next generation TerraFarm that is more efficient, productive and cost effective than other indoor farms. Local Roots’ proprietary system of lights, software, airflow, automation and controls give plants the perfect balance of light and nutrients to make them as healthy as possible while also unlocking their yield potential. The TerraFarms’ modular design allows Local Roots to quickly test and revise new designs and operating practices more economically than traditional indoor farms.  

About the Author

Local Roots is working to improve global health by building a better food system. Its team of technologists and plant scientists design, manufacture, deploy and operate high-tech, modular TerraFarms that grow efficient, consistent, and affordable produce, without pesticides or herbicides. Headquartered in Los Angeles, CA, Local Roots is a portfolio company of the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI).