Richmond, VA (April 2021) - Babylon Micro-Farms, Inc. installed a vertical farm this week at Brooke Point High School in Stafford County. This is the inaugural pilot program in a Virginia secondary public school which is designed to incorporate STEM learning with an agricultural application. The first farm was installed March 29, 2021.
Tim Roberts, Brooke Point’s principal, who worked closely with Babylon to implement the new program, commented “It’s important to me that we expose our students to innovative technology and ideas to inspire them to invent and create a more sustainable community. I am excited to see this important learning taking place and to be able to provide our students with different strategies and ways of thinking in a very tangible way that promotes positive change.”
Students will have the opportunity to learn about the technology applications that are being developed for controlled environmental agriculture, including software, hardware and the use of AI to help optimize crop yields. The horticulture and botany involved in selecting crop varieties and growing them using advanced sensor systems that monitor pH, EC, and nutrient density as well as using infra-red cameras to monitor plant growth and health is another aspect of 21st century agricultural science that students will be able to study first-hand. For many students this will be the first time they will have been able to watch food grow that they have helped plant and harvest.
Graham Smith, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer for Babylon is enthusiastic about the new program: “The chance to have the students learning about and participating in sustainable, technology-based agricultural innovation means that the future of our food system will change - the next generation will be able to use vertical farming as a way to ensure a more decentralized, reliable, and transparent supply chain. The types of jobs created by vertical farming range from manufacturing and programming to sales and tech support so there is a broad set of skills required that can appeal to students seeking a variety of career paths.”
At present, Stafford County Public Schools has seventeen elementary schools, eight middle schools and five high schools, the school membership is approximately thirty thousand. The potential impact is significant if other schools in the county participate in the innovative new approach to teaching students how to farm using cutting edge technology while exposing them to a wide spectrum of career choices. Babylon hopes to expand the program across Virginia over the next two years, enabling students to get hands-on experience in vertical farming, one of the fastest growing industries in the country. The North American vertical farming market is projected to reach $2.73B by 2026 with global market growth estimated at $12.77B.
Funding from the Center for Innovative Technology supported Babylon from their early days as a small startup founded by two students studying Social Entrepreneurship at UVA. Graham Smith and Alexander Olesen went on to develop a cutting edge, proprietary cloud-based, remotely managed platform, controlled through a mobile app which allows year-round cultivation of leafy greens and herbs designed for vertical farming systems. Their entry into Virginia public schools is the next step in their original vision of incubating a socially good company that impacts the future by providing equitable access to sustainable, transparently sourced fresh produce.