S2E24: s2e24 Alexander Olesen & Graham Smith - Farming for a Better Future


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Episode Summary

Join Harry Duran, host of Vertical Farming Podcast, as he welcomes to the show co-founders of Babylon MicroFarms, Alexander Olesen and Graham Smith. Alexander and Graham met at the University of Virginia where they first designed a low-cost micro-farm to provide nutritious produce for food-insecure refugees in the Middle East. They were initially inspired by the desire to bring benefits of sustainable hydroponic farming to those who need it the most. In this episode, Harry talks to Alexander and Graham about the genesis of Babylon MicroFarms, why AgTech and vertical farming are critical to the advancement of our society and technological developments that have been made in vertical farming.

Episode Sponsor

Ceres Greenhouse Solutions

Key Takeaways

  • 03:22 – Harry welcomes to the show Alexander Olesen and Graham Smith, co-founders of Babylon, who share their intriguing origin stories
  • 05:41 – Alexander and Graham discuss their initial educational pursuits and what led them to AgTech
  • 11:41 – Where the inspiration came from to start Babylon MicroFarms and challenges and obstacles Alexander and Graham faced along the way
  • 18:46 – How Alexander and Graham decided where to focus their resources in vertical farming
  • 22:38 – Alexander and Graham share how they’ve grown their team and why they chose to set up shop in Virginia
  • 25:17 – The impact COVID-19 has had on Alexander and Graham’s business
  • 27:17 – Alexander and Graham discuss Networking in AgTech
  • 29:09 – Graham talks about his passion for making products that make people happy and Alexander explains why vertical farming is so important in today’s society
  • 38:06 – What excites Alexander and Graham the most about the future of AgTech
  • 41:36 – A tough question Alexander and Graham have had to ask themselves recently and mentors in the AgTech space that they admire
  • 43:48 – Harry thanks Alexander & Graham for joining the show and let’s listeners know where they can connect with them

Tweetable Quotes

“We were just genuinely interested and motivated by the sustainability methods of hydroponics.” (07:53)

“I think pretty early on we saw that for these smaller scale farms to succeed they required a very different set of problems to be solved than that of a large-scale commercial farm.” (17:50)

“We have really benefited from being in a smaller startup ecosystem. Charlottesville and Richmond both have very supportive networks and we’ve benefited from that.” (24:41)

“Food has always been a really important thing to me.” (30:47)

“I really think that there is a global opportunity to grow the majority of highly perishable produce indoors. And wouldn’t it be amazing to be one of the companies doing that?” (33:38)

“I think one of the technology advancements that I’m particularly excited about is using cameras to automate the collection of what we call ‘target variables.’” (38:46)

Links Mentioned

Babylon Micro-Farms Website

Alexander’s LinkedIn

Graham’s LinkedIn


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