Chris Perry

Chris Perry

CEO, Open Blue
David Proenza

David Proenza

CEO, Urban Vertical Farms
Applied technological advancements are a game-changer in the agriculture sector.

How has your company evolved in Panama?

CHRIS PERRY We have been operating in Panama for almost 10 years. We are a mission-driven organization, with a core purpose of feeding current and future generations in harmony with the ocean. This is important because the global population on the planet continues to grow rapidly. When we think about food security and how we will feed ourselves, we will require new innovative ways to produce our protein. Open Blue has developed a new paradigm in agriculture. Our biggest differentiation point is that we are a truly open-ocean, offshore site. We are located 12km offshore, far away from sensitive near-shore ecosystems in a high-energy, pristine environment that is natural for the fish. Cobia is native to the waters here that we operate in, which is a critical component for us. Over these 10 years, we have had many challenges as well as accomplishments.

DAVID PROENZA In 2017, we solidified a lot of the projects we had been developing over the last five years. We signed agreements with a few large companies to develop our indoor vertical farm concept in Latin America, the US, and Europe. We have recently started development of our first indoor vertical farms in Geneva, Switzerland, and from there, we are looking to expand to Germany and the UK. We also began planning the development of blockchain for our business because we are looking for ways to eliminate the intermediaries and receive faster payment for our products. Blockchain also makes our business more transparent for consumers as they will be able to know how their food was produced, when it was produced, and when it was delivered to retail outlets. Originally, blockchain was going to be used just for our internal business model, but as we started analyzing its full potential, we decided to open it up not just for our private use, but for the global food distribution chain. We have designed it to be able to include all farmers around the world who want to eliminate the problems that exist in the current global food distribution, which is complicated, costly, and inefficient.

How would you explain your business model and the importance of sustainability?

CP We think about our production in terms of biomass harvested and processed; we processed about 1,200 tons in 2017 and will reach 1,800 tons in 2018 and 3,700 tons in 2019. Our production cycle is 12-14 months. Another unique attribute is that we are able to get a target harvest size in about 12-14 months from egg to a harvest size of over 5kg. That is twice as fast as salmon, which is around three years. Sustainability is also critical to our model; when we think about sustainability within our environmental, social, and government strategy, the environmental component is obviously critical to ensure we are working in harmony with the ocean and supporting the social environments that we work in. Another important area we are focused on related to sustainability, and the ocean is our feed and diet of the animal. This includes a focus on animal welfare and delivering a diet that will provide our fish with their nutritional requirements. Our social focus is also critical of what we do, especially in the communities in which we operate. For many of these communities, we are the primary employer and have made significant direct investments in scholarship programs, drilling freshwater wells, and more.

DP Our business model is designed like a franchise. We develop farms under the branding of Urban Vertical Farms in every country we operate in. What we have done is taken the same concept and partnered up with local people, who then take a percentage of the farm. We have developed our business model to produce, process, pack, and distribute food products under one roof. We implement technology, innovation, Internet of Things (IoT), and artificial intelligence (AI), and we work through the cloud. Our global development is handled through our holding company, Urban Farms Global. Through technology we can monitor all our farms from Panama and resolve any problems quickly. We recently signed a deal with a major company to build 10 farms as part of a large partnership arrangement. There is a lot of synergy, and by tying in blockchain, it makes it that much more efficient, productive, and transparent. In addition, our indoor vertical farms are highly sustainable because we do not use pesticides or harmful chemicals. We have a business conscience to produce high-quality food for our consumers.