Meet the fixer: This farmer uses AI for efficiency. - Grist


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Grist 50: Tom Colicchio's pick


Meet the fixer: This farmer uses AI for efficiency.

As a kid, Irving Fain started small neighborhood businesses (snow shoveling, leaf raking). He later tapped that entrepreneurial spirit to launch CrowdTwist, a marketing startup. Now, Fain wants to bring cooler technology to agriculture.

Fain’s company, Bowery Farming, uses artificial intelligence to streamline the growing process. (Full disclosure: Tom Colicchio, who nominated Fain for the Grist 50, isn’t just a fan; he’s an investor.)

Bowery’s indoor, vertical farm uses a huge network of sensors to measure crop health. This technology is “the central nervous system of the farm,” says Fain, and adjusts how much water, LED light, and nutrients plants get. With that level of precision, Bowery can grow a lot more food on a lot less land without using pesticides.

Bowery’s leafy greens are currently sold at three Whole Foods locations and to a handful of restaurants, all in the New York metro area. Although there are growing fears in the United States about robots stealing jobs, Fain points out that demand outpaces supply for organic greens, and then there’s, well, those booming city populations. Bowery hopes to expand across the country and world (having a certain Top Chef judge as an advocate and adviser certainly won’t hurt). And, at $3.49 a box, robot kale is surprisingly digestible.

Meet all the fixers on this year’s Grist 50.