This interview details Berlin Farms, an indoor farming company based in Germany. The interview is with Vahik Soghom, Co-Founder of Berlin Farms.
A great opening question! Silke and I met almost three years ago at another agtech startup in Berlin called Smart Soil Technologies (SST for short). SST specialized in creating smart soil for outdoor and indoor farming, and over time, pivoted toward R&D for large indoor farming companies in Europe and the Middle East. We learned a lot at SST in terms of how to run a consistent production operation, and about the industry more broadly.
We were both fascinated by indoor farming and saw its immense potential in bringing clean, locally produced food to urban environments. But one concern we both had is that sometimes, farming operations can actually be harmful to our environment in more ways than one. Another shared concern was that most of the crops produced indoors tend to be leafy greens and not very high up on the nutrition ladder.
And so over time, we realized that we wanted to do things differently. First, we wanted to grow crops that have the highest nutritional value, so microgreens were the obvious choice. From a business perspective, significantly shorter growth cycles also mean more nutritional output and, in theory, better profitability. Another important goal was to run as sustainable an operation as we possibly could, which meant moving away from the need to use chemical fertilizers, so microgreens fit the bill perfectly. Our goal was to produce highly nutritious crops only using substrate, water, and light - and microgreens were the perfect candidates. Plus, they really do taste amazing!
So we went on our own way and founded Berlin Farms in June 2021, and it’s been an amazing journey ever since.
Like all indoor farming companies today, we’re operating in a market downturn and an industry that’s really been hit hard after the initial hype bubble burst. There’s an ongoing market correction that saw a lot of big players closing shop, which obviously creates a great deal of uncertainty in the market and a loss of trust among investors. And of course, the Ukraine war and current geopolitical tensions across the globe don’t help either.
As a result of these changes, we’ve seen some loss of trust and excitement among consumers toward indoor farming. That’s the problem with hype and inflated expectations - sooner or later, not just investors, but consumers are going to realize that things are not as rosy as they were initially painted to be.
So all of this is to say that our biggest challenge is to get consumers excited about indoor farming again. To show them that a lot of the promises inherent in indoor farming are actually still there - reducing transport miles, growing clean food locally, improving food security, and so on. None of this has changed, but you need time and patience to convey this to consumers. And you need to be consumer-facing, as exhausting as that can be. That’s why we’ve made it a point to interact with customers face-to-face at farmer’s markets and preach the benefits of indoor farming and our microgreens more specifically.
The second challenge is getting them excited about microgreens. We were rather surprised to find out that most people don’t know that there’s a broad variety of microgreens beyond garden cress, the main variety they know from German supermarkets. At times it feels like we’re bringing an entirely new product to the market, which means that we need to convince consumers to purchase something they don’t really know much about.
But thankfully, our USPs make it easier for us to establish trust with consumers. We’re certified organic, which is always a big plus, and microgreens have immense health benefits, which isn’t hard to explain to consumers. And of course, once they taste some of our varieties, they’re hooked - at the end of the day, food is about flavor.
We believe that we’ve been navigating these challenges really well, and we’re only getting better and better at developing the right consumer messaging.
We see three factors differentiating us from competitors:
We have about 30 square meters of floor space. It doesn't sound like much, but you can actually do a lot with it. We have 6 growing levels, so that brings it to a total production area of 180 square meters. Remember that microgreens are short-cycle crops, so you can do several cycles per month. With our current space, we can produce up to 20.000 microgreen trays!
We don't use CO2. Our microgreens grow just fine without it, but we understand that for some crops and production environments, CO2 can be a major fact in faster and healthier plant growth.
Our energy price always changes, but we pay on average 0.40 Euros per kWh. It comes from the grid but we are planning on introducing renewables in 2024, and we hope that we can generate the majority of our needs from renewables by the end of the year.
Our company is called Berlin Farms GmbH but our main brand is called Supergrün. If you want to find out more about what we do, then check out our online shop at https://supergruen.shop
We look forward to connecting!
This interview details SecondBloom Auctions, a company based in the United States. The interview is with Chris Lange, Manager of Strategic Partnerships at SecondBloom Auctions. To learn more about SecondBloom Auctions and other indoor farming companies, click on this link!View Full Interview
This interview details Smart Oasis Farm, an indoor farming company based in the UK. The interview is with Suzanne Tate, Chief Design Officer at Smart Oasis Farm. To learn more about Smart Oasis Farm and other indoor farming companies, click on this link!View Full Interview
This interview details Tunable, a Nanotechnology Research company based in Norway. The interview is with Roar Hernes, Business Development Manager at Tunable. To learn more about Tunable and other indoor farming companies, click on this link!View Full Interview
This interview details Rift Labs, a cutting-edge light-based solutions provider based in Norway. The interview is with Halvard Aagaard, CEO of Rift Labs. To learn more about Rift Labs and other indoor farming companies, click on this link!View Full Interview
This interview details Biotalys, a Biotechnology Research company based in Belgium. The interview is with Toon Musschoot, Head of Investor Relations and Communications at Biotalys. To learn more about Biotalys and other indoor farming companies, click on this link!View Full Interview
This interview details HerbaFabrica, an indoor farming company based in the Czech Republic. The interview is with Karolína Pumprová, Founder of HerbaFabrica. To learn more about HerbaFabrica and other indoor farming companies, click on this link!View Full Interview
This interview details VaVersa, an indoor farming company based in the Netherlands. The interview is with Olivier Francescangeli, Co-Founder of VaVersa. To learn more about VaVersa and other indoor farming companies, click on this link!View Full Interview
This interview details Simply Grow Ltd, an indoor farming company based in the UK. The interview is with Sylwia Golebiowska, CEO of Simply Grow Ltd. To learn more about Simply Grow Ltd and other indoor farming companies, click on this link!View Full Interview
This interview details Collective Joy Farm, an indoor farming company based in Canada. The interview is with Tammara Maher, Founder of Collective Joy Farm. To learn more about Collective Joy Farm and other indoor farming companies, click on this link!View Full Interview
This interview details TTA, an indoor farming technology provider based in the Netherlands. The interview was conducted with Peter Rietveld, Business Development Director at Eurogroep, and with Renko Schuil, Sales Manager Indoor Farming at TTA.View Full Interview