Breaking into Emerging Markets

Breaking into Emerging Markets

Axiom helps Innovators Break Into Controlled Environment Agriculture

Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) may not be a familiarly term. However, you’ve most certainly purchased vegetables, fruits, flowers and plants produced in CEA facilities at local supermarkets, farmer’s markets and other retailers. If you have a product suited for use in CEA facilities, it can be difficult to identify potential customers in this emerging technology market

What is a CEA facility? Think of a greenhouse on steroids. CEAs are greenhouses stacked on top of each other to create larger vertical farms with acres of indoor production when it’s impossible to grow plants outdoors.      

According to the U.S. Census of Agriculture report, the number of greenhouse vegetable farms has increased 115 percent to 8,750 in the U.S. Top crops include tomatoes, herbs, cucumbers, lettuce/spinach, peppers, strawberries, squash, onions, carrots, broccoli, cabbage and eggplant – presently account for nearly $800 million+ in U.S. sales.  Since 2012, sales have increased 18 percent.

Axiom has completed several major CEA projects for crop protection, crop nutrient, seeds/rooted liners, lighting, irrigation and HVAC equipment and controls manufacturers. The work ranges from identifying and prioritizing underserved grower needs to calculating adoption rates for emerging technologies in crop nutrition, crop protection and production equipment.   

Observations about reaching Controlled Environment Growers:

  • Find Credible sources of information — Land-grant university research is a primary information source. However, growers big and small want to corroborate land-grant findings with their peers. Surprisingly, trade magazines are the number two most frequented sources of information after land-grant universities. 
  • Input providers as problem solvers — Many controlled environment growers seek input from supply providers and distribution partners because they often have deeper insight about the crop inputs they provide.
  • Demo plots — Input purchase decisions go nowhere without trial data. More importantly, trial data doesn’t mean big dollar research budgets if the studies are structured accordingly. For the past 18 months, we’ve partnered with several manufacturers to test the efficacy of non-traditional crop nutrition protocols for a variety of crops grown in controlled environment facilities. The budget for these trials is often less than $10K. 
  • Innovation is king – If your technology is truly innovative, it’s important to tell your story clearly and succinctly in a way that identifies your differentiating factors. We’re helping the nation’s second-largest vertical farm innovate to accelerate plant growth and harvest. We are designing and testing a system that captures and recirculates the carbon dioxide produced by natural gas-powered chillers used to cool the facility. This not only has a positive environmental impact, it also reaps massive positive economic impact for the farm because plants mature more quickly.

Our experience can help you find innovative ways to address business challenges in controlled environment agriculture. Does your company manufacture products well-suited for use by CEA growers, vertical farms or greenhouse operators? Want to know the best way to approach this expanding market segment? Contact us to learn more, contact Mike Reiber at

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