This interview details Worldwide Local Salads, an indoor farming company based in UK. The interview is with Grahame Dunling, COO and Head of Business Development of Worldwide Local Salads.
What is the origin story of Worldwide Local Salads?
After over 40 years in the Agritech industry from innovating the Greenhouse industry from the early days of Dutch Light to the early Venlo greenhouse, as growers we faced many changes in how to grow crops from natural season crops through to CEA and out of season crops.
This went from planting tomatoes in January through to growing and cropping all year round. From 2013 we have been innovating in the GCC starting in Bahrain where we advised on a 9 ha Greenhouse site that was under performing. What started out as a 3 day consulting role turned into a project that lasted for 3 years where we undertook the role of running the farm and training all the staff in crop management and people management. The staff we trained are still running the farm to this day including the top management. In 2016 we moved to Dubai and built the first warehouse automated Vertical farm in the region. We built this from the ground up and using all local companies.
What are some of the biggest challenges facing Worldwide Local Salads in the future?
One of the biggest challenge’s is the mind set of growers today in the fact that most VF believe that AI can replace hands on growers.
AI is here to help growers and not replace them. Because unless the ‘Growers’ are hands on they can not see the issues and improve on them. By walking around, you can feel and see what the plants are doing and see how to improve the welfare of the plants.
Horticulture and Vertical Farming business can not be run like other large companies can as our ‘stock’ value is zero once the crop is harvested so a very good offtake agreement has to be in place and future planning must take place to accommodate any holidays or a growth or dip in demand. It is also a 7 day a week job and staff planning and overtime must be accounted for.
What is unique about Worldwide Local Salads compared to competitors?
After been in the Greenhouse industry for 40 years, and the Vertical Growing industry since 2008 (15 years) We have improved and innovated many changes and under the ENERGY Crisis of 2022 – 2023 this allowed us as a company to undergo many changes that others just accepted as ‘going to be the norm’. We all hear about Vertical Farms are getting investment of hundreds of millions to build the ‘Largest’ vertical farm.
They all sing from the same hymn sheet on saving water and growing all year round. Yet the biggest single cost is ENERGY and this means we have to lower our cost of goods sold to make any real value. To do this many think using renewable energy and energy efficient leds hit the right note.
This thinking is outdated as since the ENERGY crisis has hit this means we must Lower our ENERGY consumption, and this is not the same as simply using renewable energy. We have focused on lowering the energy used in a vertical farm by 50%.
So as an example if your farm uses 5,000 Kw of energy by implementing the energy like we do we only use 2,500 Kw of energy. This all adds up to the improvement in the bottom line and makes an unviable industry into a profitable industry.
How do you measure the impact of your company so far? (Revenue, Employees, Customer Quantity, Production Volume) etc?
Using all our industry experience of a 7th generation Agritech family we are once again leading the field and traveling a road that others dare not look at going down for fear of failing. We have always gone down the road of doing things what others say can not be done. In 2008 we built the first automated vertical farm and people said then it would not catch on. 15 years later after traveling the world consulting for others and implementing new technologies in places like HK, China, Vancouver, Kentucky, Oman, Bahrain, Saudi, Dubai & UK.
What have you learned that you wish you knew when you started the company?
We never advertised or used social media to advertise our skills until we did the Bahrain project as we relied on word of mouth to gain work and I was taken by surprise on the amount of work we got which were called (by new prospective clients asking) to rebuild the project due to the builds been done (by other vendors) to ‘Home hobby’ designs and the clients been charged millions for a very poor build.
The biggest challenge was the hype and stories told about how to grow a crop in days and no knowledge of ‘farming’ needed. This is why we see failures now in the industry and comments like ‘’we are learning" and more automation is needed. Automation is there however we need to use Horticultural automation from companies that know how to do this and we need to adapt this automation to suit the project and our knowledge of the industry allows us to do this.
We need to show the industry working correctly and looking at the bottom line.
How can people connect with you or learn more about World Wide Local Salads?
By Googling Grahame Dunling, our background is well documented.
We are not the cheapest but we have commercial background in the industry and think outside the box to lead the industry. We have industry experience in trouble shooting for other companies.
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