“Current and Fifth Season represent the future of vertical farming.” - Austin Webb, Co-Founder & CEO, Fifth Season
Does annually producing up to 1,000,000 pounds of amazing, non-GMO and pesticide-free produce while using up to 97% less land and water and very little human labor sound like a pipe dream to you?
Dream no more - it’s the reality at Fifth Season, an almost totally automated, Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) vertical farm located just outside Pittsburgh in Braddock, Pennsylvania.
Founded in 2015 by two brothers and their business partner, Fifth Season is “a tech company that happens to do vertical farming,” according to Webb.
Featuring end-to-end automation with very little human interaction - including a truly awe-inspiring, entirely human-free biodome grow room - Fifth Season’s 60,000 sq. ft. pilot facility in Braddock, PA is a wonder of technological innovation.
“We view this as smart manufacturing,” Webb continued. “When we think about smart manufacturing, it’s a combination of full stack software fully integrated with a hardware platform across every aspect of the process, so we call it a super stack solution, which means end-to-end automation and everything being run by a software platform.”
This end-to-end automation makes for a unique solution to the riddle of vertical farming. “A lot of folks in this space view it as taking farming from outdoors to indoors,” explained Webb, “and inevitably all that happens is they just move people from outdoors to indoors.”
Fifth Season’s grow room is, on the contrary, a human-free environment. In fact, people have almost nothing to do with the process at all, outside of basic quality control and inspection. This ensures purity in the growing process and eliminates contaminants to guarantee produce of the highest caliber and predictable, dependable crop yields.
Fifth Season is a well-oiled machine that depends on all of its components doing exactly what’s expected of them, every time for a long time. They cannot afford to deploy unreliable hardware in any facet of their production facility.
LEDs are the key to making vertical farming work. Selecting grow lights is one of the most important decisions you could make from a hardware design perspective. It really is the gating thing for unlocking all of the other hardware design.
Fifth Season | Automation Manager
Choosing The Right Grow Lights
So how did they choose which grow lights - an essential part of any vertical farming operation - to use for their facility?
“[When choosing the lights], we looked at total cost of ownership, how efficient the lights are, how well they meet the needs of the environment that they get deployed in, reliability, sustainability and sound manufacturing. These things are going to be deployed in a human-free grow environment; we need to make sure that they last a very long time so we don’t have to go in and touch them so we don’t have to send humans in there.”
Fifth Season’s tech team knew that choosing the right lights would be critical. Since any mistake could cost them valuable time and money, they acquired lights from the biggest names in the horticulture LED industry and employed a highly rigorous testing process.
“My background is in testing electrical and mechanical products,” explained Morgan. “I’ve done a lot of UL safety testing and a lot of testing in different labs all across the world to certify electrical products. We selected a lot of big names in this industry and we really put them to the test.
“Hands down, the Current Arize Life fixture came out on top. It was very clear after that that this was the light that we needed to go with.”
The Missing Link: How Current Helps Fifth Season Thrive
Fifth Season is working to change the world and make food more accessible for everybody. Current was thrilled to partner with them and offer them not only world class grow lights - but also superb engineering and design support.
“Using the Current Arize Life fixture has allowed us to grow crops consistently and in a controlled manner [better] than anything you could ever imagine outdoors or in a greenhouse” offered Morgan. “And in order for us to do that, I don’t think we could have found a better partner than Current. They didn’t disappear after the sale. They were continually checking in and supporting us and making sure that our lights were continuing to perform and will continue into the future.”
Morgan had superlative things to say about the lights, too.
The efficacy of the lights is really terrific. The form factor of the Current Arize Life has really helped us achieve growing densities that I haven’t seen anywhere else in the industry. They allow us to deliver what we say we are to our customers. They allow us to create those optimum growing conditions so we can deliver those fresh crops fast to people.
Fifth Season | Automation Manager
Morgan returned to the ever-important point of reliability, as well, explaining, “[The Arize Life fixtures] are something that we don’t have to worry about in our operations. We don’t have to worry about these lights; they’re going to work.”
Growing The Future Of Food
Fifth Season’s vision for its future is vast, and its ambitions for playing a key helpful role in humanity’s future are equally impressive.
“As Fifth Season continues to be successful in its mission,” explained Brac Webb, Fifth Season co-founder and Chief Technology Officer (CTO), “we will continue to not only have our leafy green salads and herb farms throughout the world. I think we will change not only how we, but others go about developing innovative food manufacturing. That is key with a growing population to solve humanity’s continual evolution.
“We are excited to use the Current Arize lights - or whatever new, awesome product we’re working on with them - in our future farms. That’s because it is a great product. It is a superior lighting product for the vertical farming initiative - and we know that Current is a company that can grow with us. It is a company that can scale with us as we build the next farm, the next 100 farms, and farms around the world.”
Austin Webb elaborated further on the importance of Fifth Season’s ongoing partnership with Current.
“We definitely see Fifth Season in space. You can do it anywhere. We see Fifth Season making it easier to eat healthier both here at home on earth, as well as if we potentially become an interplanetary species.”
“Current and Fifth Season both represent the future of vertical farming. We’re going to continue building the partnership and really take to the next level where this industry can go. We know we can solve these problems - let’s go solve them together.”
We wanted to partner with a company like Current because we want someone that is able to not just grow with us, but has a maturity and a manufacturing presence that can allow us to move at the scale and pace that we are looking to move.
Fifth Season | Co-Founder + CEO
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www.gecurrent.com | Fifth Season Case Study (03.30.2022)