Always be pivoting

Departments - Editor’s Letter

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September 27, 2021

As the last 18 months have laid bare for us all, the ability to pivot, or change course quickly to outmaneuver a market development that is rapidly baring down on you like a runaway freight train, is incredibly important.

Take for example this month’s cover story subject, Rocket Farms (https://bit.ly/blasting-off-again) out on the West Coast. The nearly 40-year-old indoor grower’s backstory is littered with successful pivots and audibles, and I would guess that many of you have experienced the same in your businesses as well.

After focusing on its ornamental division for years and years, Rocket made the (some would say no-brainer) decision in 2020 to go all-in on potted edible veggie and herb transplants after seeing the segment explode in interest during the pandemic.

That pivot, while both a gigantic risk and opportunity at the same time, paid off big time. The operation saw a 38% increase year-over-year on its edible crops business, while demand for its potted ornamental offerings mostly remained flat over the same period.

Unfold, whose CEO talked with editor Chris Markham this month (https://bit.ly/unfold-developing-genetics), is a new startup that is working hard to pivot the industry itself away from the field grown varieties that many indoor and vertical farms have been forced to shoehorn into their production systems. The West Coast innovator is 100% focused on breeding seeds and varieties with “quality traits” for both indoor farmers and end-consumers alike. Think short and compact and still bursting with flavor and color.

And it’s not just about new traits or varieties at Unfold. The startup is hoping to unlock a new wave of crops that indoor growers who have mastered lettuce and microgreens and things like that can pivot to, if need be. Crops like strawberries and peppers and cucumbers, all of which could be considered “hot crops” with robust demand from consumers, foodies and chefs.

So, as the fall season gives way to winter, and you’re looking at what you should do at your indoor farm for 2022 and beyond, don’t let the opportunity to pivot pass you by. Keep an open mind when that fork in the road appears.

Matthew J. Grassi, Editor | mgrassi@gie.net | 216-393-0362