We sit down with Peter Lennox, Project Manager at Kroptek to discuss scaling Controlled Environment Agriculture projects and the journey that led him to Kroptek.
In 2019 Peter joined the Kroptek team with a mission to develop projects that integrate innovative technology alongside traditional knowledge. Whilst advances in controlled lighting are changing the nature of growing, understanding plant-specific needs remains critical. This underscores Kroptek’s approach to the future of AgriTech, a balance between innovation and experience.
From Cape Town Strawberries to Advanced AgriTech
Peter’s connection to farming started back when he was a child in Cape Town. He worked on his family’s strawberry farm which included a unique hydroponic setup his grandfather invented. The system directed water from a local stream into a network of pipes with holes drilled into them. Despite scepticism from others and the lack of added nutrients or minerals, the strawberries flourished. This early success with hydroponics set the stage for Peter’s fascination with CEA.
After relocating to the UK in 2004, Peter began designing systems for a variety of crops, including microgreens, herbs, and, naturally, strawberries. Nowadays, Peter is growing 120 strawberry plants in his garden, utilising different sets of Kroptek lights with spectra KP4 and KP5 and aiming for an impressive harvest of about 180 kilos in the next eight months.
Building a Resilient CEA Industry: Scaling Wisely and Growing with Purpose
Despite the turbulence in the Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) industry, with several vertical farms facing closures, it remains a field of potential for those who navigate it wisely. “It’s crucial to scale wisely,” says Peter. “A lot of investments were made on great ideas without a roadmap to fruition. Our golden rule is don’t grow what you can’t sell”. Peter emphasises that ambitious projects often suffer from a lack of concrete data and unrealistic expectations, leading to a price disparity between the services offered and their actual benefits to growers. However, Kroptek has been working towards making the journey smoother for its clients. “We provide a comprehensive service to our clients about multiple aspects like labour requirements and scaling strategies,” he explains.
Kroptek’s strategy focuses heavily on the hyperlocal concept, working closely with distributors who share their values of efficiency and cleanliness. “We focus on consistent, high-quality production,” he adds. Adapting to the unique needs of each client, Kroptek tests specific light spectrums to optimise taste and flavour while focusing on commercial efficiency. “Whether our clients aim to grow nutritious food or scale commercially, we offer customised solutions using industry knowledge tailored specifically to their needs”. Peter makes it clear that with the right guidance and strategy, companies can navigate the challenges of the CEA industry successfully and build a sustainable AgriTech business.
Navigating the Path Ahead: Overcoming Obstacles and Focusing on the Future
In the concluding remarks of our conversation, Peter highlights that there are vital steps to be taken for CEA to progress in the right direction. He notes a distinct absence of governmental incentives to build local CEA farms that can ensure a consistent supply of food to communities. A push in this direction, he believes, is imperative. As we stare down the barrel of an impending food crisis, aggravated by recent conflicts, strategic allocation of resources is of paramount importance. Funds are in circulation, but their deployment should be optimised. “It’s not just about the allocation of money,” says Peter, “it’s about directing it to facilitate sustainable food production and distribution to those in need, in the right locations.”
The Kroptek team envision the future of CEA encapsulating smart investments, sustainability, and the commitment to serve communities effectively.