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FFAR’s Precision Indoor Plants Consortium Launches Initial Lettuce Project

FFAR’s Precision Indoor Plants Consortium Launches Initial Lettuce Project

WASHINGTON (December 7, 2020) — Lettuce is the third most consumed vegetable in the US. However, as a perishable product, much of the produce is not marketable because lettuce leaves discolor after harvest. In fact, 46 percent of head lettuce and 55 percent of fresh romaine and leaf lettuce is wasted. The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) is providing a $2,591,231 grant through its Precision Indoor Plants (PIP) Consortium to prevent discoloration in indoor-grown lettuce, while increasing lettuce yield and leaf quality. PIP partners AeroFarms, BASF, Benson Hill, Fluence by OSRAM and GreenVenus provided matching funds, for a total $4,792,131 investment. This is the first project funded by the PIP Consortium.

“Lettuce is a mainstay of the American diet, and this project will increase its flavor and nutrition for consumers – while also reducing food waste,” said FFAR Executive Director Dr. Sally Rockey. “This project is using pioneering indoor agriculture science and technology to extend lettuce shelf life, resulting in more marketable food for consumers, less waste and increased profits for farmers.”

Wilted and discolored lettuce leaves are not only unappealing, but this discoloration also diminishes flavor, nutrition, consumer appeal and shelf life. Farmers use chemicals and storage techniques to prevent post-harvest discoloration and preserve leaves, but these methods can be costly, and the protection they offer disappears when packaging is opened. PIP Lettuce Project researchers, led by Dr. Csanad Gurdon of AeroFarms, will study how biological and environmental conditions in indoor grow environments affect postharvest discoloration.

Many environmental conditions affect lettuce metabolism and genes related to discoloration and growth, so the researchers will conduct growth experiments in an indoor environment where they can control changes in lighting, heat, humidity, fertilizers, irrigation and other factors. The research team will investigate what conditions lead to slower or faster postharvest discoloration and high-yield, high-quality leaves. They will also study a diverse set of lettuce cultivars to identify genetic markers, biochemical and physical traits that lead to high yield and quality as well as low postharvest discoloration. Existing candidate genes affecting postharvest discoloration will also be edited as part of the project.

Finally, the researchers will use the data and experimental results to aid in building and operating indoor grow environments that enable faster lettuce production.

Principal Investigator Dr. Csanad Gurdon comments, “I am thrilled to lead a world-class team of scientists and engineers to execute the first of multiple exciting research projects in the pipeline of the PIP Consortium, leveraging AeroFarms’s expertise and international facilities to benefit the whole industry. This will be a truly global effort with research being conducted in four US states in addition to the Netherlands and the UAE. Experts in plant breeding, indoor growing, gene editing, bioinformatics, metabolomics and lighting will work together to obtain results that will allow improving lettuce quality before and after harvest.”

As the first project of the PIP Consortium, the results of the project will have implications for other fruits and vegetables grown both indoors and outside. In addition, PIP partners are sharing their data and technology with each other, a collaboration that will guide future public-private efforts necessary for similar large-scale agriculture research.

About the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research

The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) builds public-private partnerships to fund bold research addressing big food and agriculture challenges. FFAR was established in the 2014 Farm Bill to increase public agriculture research investments, fill knowledge gaps and complement USDA’s research agenda. FFAR’s model matches federal funding from Congress with private funding, delivering a powerful return on taxpayer investment. Through collaboration and partnerships, FFAR advances actionable science benefiting farmers, consumers and the environment.
Connect: @FoundationFAR | @RockTalking

About AeroFarms

Since 2004, AeroFarms® has been leading the way for indoor vertical farming and championing transformational innovation for agriculture overall. On a mission to grow the best plants possible for the betterment of humanity, AeroFarms is a Certified B Corp Company with global headquarters in Newark, New Jersey, United States. Named one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies by Fast Company two years in a row and one of TIME’s Best Inventions, AeroFarms patented, award-winning indoor vertical farming technology provides the perfect conditions for healthy plants to thrive, taking agriculture to a new level of precision, food safety, and productivity while using up to 95% less water and no pesticides vs. traditional field farming. AeroFarms enables local production to safely grow all year round for its commercial retail brand Dream Greens® that has peak flavor always.® In addition, AeroFarms has developed multi-year strategic partnerships ranging from government to major Fortune 500 companies to help them uniquely solve their agriculture supply chain needs. Please contact us at info@aerofarms.com to learn more about how you can work with AeroFarms.

Media Contact:
Marc Oshima, Co Founder & CMO, AeroFarms
MarcOshima@AeroFarms.com / +1-917-673-4602

About BASF’s Agricultural Solutions division

With a rapidly growing population, the world is increasingly dependent on our ability to develop and maintain sustainable agriculture and healthy environments. Working with farmers, agricultural professionals, pest management experts and others, it is our role to help make this possible. That’s why we invest in a strong R&D pipeline and broad portfolio, including seeds and traits, chemical and biological crop protection, soil management, plant health, pest control and digital farming. With expert teams in the lab, field, office and in production, we connect innovative thinking and down-to-earth action to create real world ideas that work – for farmers, society and the planet. In 2019, our division generated sales of €7.8 billion. For more information, please visit www.agriculture.basf.com or any of our social media channels.

About BASF

At BASF, we create chemistry for a sustainable future. We combine economic success with environmental protection and social responsibility. More than 117,000 employees in the BASF Group work on contributing to the success of our customers in nearly all sectors and almost every country in the world. Our portfolio is organized into six segments: Chemicals, Materials, Industrial Solutions, Surface Technologies, Nutrition & Care and Agricultural Solutions. BASF generated sales of €59 billion in 2019. BASF shares are traded on the stock exchange in Frankfurt (BAS) and as American Depositary Receipts (BASFY) in the U.S. Further information at www.basf.com.

About Benson Hill

Benson Hill moves food forward with Cloud Biology® and the CropOS platform, a leading food innovation engine that combines data science and machine learning with biology and genetics. Benson Hill empowers innovators to unlock nature’s genetic diversity from plant to plate, with the purpose of creating healthier, great-tasting food and ingredient options that are both widely accessible and sustainable. More information can be found at bensonhill.com or on Twitter at @bensonhillinc.

About Fluence by OSRAM

Fluence Bioengineering, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of OSRAM, creates powerful and energy-efficient LED lighting solutions for commercial crop production and research applications. Fluence is a leading LED lighting supplier in the global cannabis market and is committed to enabling more efficient crop production with the world’s top vertical farms and greenhouse produce growers. Fluence’s global headquarters are based in Austin, Texas, with its EMEA headquarters in Rotterdam, Netherlands. For more information about Fluence, visit https://fluence-led.com.

About GreenVenus

GreenVenus, LLC is focused on Accelerating the Green Revolution™ by enabling sustainable food production for a growing population. With its next-generation Botticelli plant propagation technology for scalable and sustainable production of plants that matter, PrimaVera™ speed breeding for tastier and healthier foods, and technologies for hybridization of crops, GreenVenus is accelerating innovation for consumer appeal and benefits for the growers. GreenVenus is headquartered in Davis, California with Botticelli production at partner locations. For more information, please visit http://greenvenus.com/