"I launched this organization to improve food security in remote Alaskan communities using controlled environment agriculture. The goal is to improve accessibility, affordability, and quality," says Colin McIntosh, founder of the vertically farming non-profit Outpost Agriculture.
Outpost Agriculture was founded by Colin McIntosh to bring fresh produce to Alaskans that they've never had access to before. His mission is to create a decentralized network of container farm operations in hub communities across the Alaskan frontier, and has recently launched his first farm operation in Ketchikan, Alaska.
The first Outpost farm was funded through private foundation grants and consists of four containers from AmplifiedAg that produce upwards of 48,000 lbs of leafy greens and herbs annually. The facility employs one full-time and one part-time employee, and the farm's first nutrient-dense herbs and lettuce quickly sold out and are now in high demand in the region.
Even though it's -40 outside, the produce is all smiles indoors
Available at import prices
In many Alaskan communities, there is little access to fresh produce, and when it's available, it comes at a high cost - leafy greens can be $8 - $10.
"Currently, all of the food comes to these communities on a barge from Seattle, so produce always suffers from the long journey and is lower quality when it arrives in these communities while still being considerably more expensive than down south. So food is expensive yet of low quality and in low supply," explains Colin. "We are helping to change this."
The mountains, fjords, forests, and tundra of Alaska, coupled with the vast distances between what are most often very small communities, make logistics one of the main drivers of the cost of goods, including fresh produce. With this in mind, Outpost Agriculture aims to build farms in the communities they serve and grow everything within 10-15 miles of its customers, keeping transportation costs down and selling its crops at or near the cost of production.
To overcome investment problems, and with a mission to bring the cost of produce down as much as possible for Alaskan communities, Outpost Agriculture was founded as a charity that plans to raise most of its capital campaign funds through private philanthropy and aims to help communities in southeast Alaska build their own Outpost farms. Outpost Agriculture plans to raise most of its capital campaign funds through private philanthropy and aims to help communities in southeast Alaska build their own Outpost farms.
"In these small regions, indoor farms make the most sense as non-profits. Fresh and leafy greens are a luxury here, but they shouldn't be. We want to take it upon ourselves to build these facilities and provide greens at a cost that is affordable to everyone," explains Colin.
Apart from selling its products at an affordable price, Outpost Agriculture also donates 20% of every harvest to non-profit feeding programs.
The farm from the outside
Leafy greens today, fruiting crops and mushrooms eventually
While Outpost Agriculture is currently focusing on leafy greens and herbs, Colin notes that Amplified Ag and other CEA companies are working on containerized mushroom farms and that this technology could prove interesting for southeast Alaska, as would the production of strawberries, peppers, and tomatoes.
Outpost Agriculture collaborates closely with AmplifiedAg, whose team Colin knows very well from his previous position at Vertical Roots, a vertical farming company powered by AmplifiedAg. As he explains, AmplifiedAg has been there every step of the way and has helped with identifying the right business model scale, farm site design, and construction to withstand the Alaskan climate and providing ongoing farm and business support.
"AmplifiedAg's model is one that works on a small and medium scale, occupying that middle ground and filling in the sweet spot for places where building a 30-acre greenhouse or multi-million dollar vertical farms doesn't make sense."
Outpost Agriculture is hoping to build another 6-9 Outpost container farms in multiple communities throughout Alaska, all in collaboration with AmplifiedAg. Consumers can purchase produce through the farm's website.