Revolutionising Fresh Food Production: The GreenOnyx Journey

Water Lentils

“The problem is not that people aren’t willing to eat leafy greens, but that it is difficult to produce them in an efficient, predictable way that reduces waste and emissions,” says Dr. Tsipi Shoham, co-founder and CEO of GreenOnyx. Based in Tel Aviv, Israel, GreenOnyx is a pioneering vertical farming company specialising in the production of a freshwater lentil superfood and advanced modular farming solutions. Tsipi, who has a background in cellular biology and cancer research, discovered the substantial health benefits of vegetable consumption, leading her to establish GreenOnyx in 2013. Her goal was to revolutionise fresh food production, distribution, and consumption on a global scale by addressing two critical questions: what should be grown, and how should it be grown?

The “How” of Efficient Production

Tackling the “how” involved developing a fully autonomous solution that minimises waste to between 6% and 8%. GreenOnyx designed an end-to-end sterile, compact, and modular farm system that ensures yield efficiency and a streamlined supply chain from seeding to consumer. Every stage of cultivation is automated, ensuring precision and efficiency.

The compact form of GreenOnyx’s farms allows for easy integration into existing buildings and spaces close to consumers, reducing losses associated with transportation and short growing seasons. These systems enable year-round growing, resulting in up to 100 times more production per square metre compared to conventional methods. The farms also boast high land, water, and energy efficiency, eliminating the need for chemicals such as pesticides and antibiotics.

“We built our farm in the middle of Tel Aviv, on the fifth floor of an industrial building right next to our largest customer, so there is practically no distance to travel. With our system, we have created a monoculture, sterile environment to produce a highly predictable and nutritious fresh crop, that is easy to consume as processed foods, and with up to 6 weeks of shelf life,” explains Ben Kidron, Chief Revenue Officer at GreenOnyx.

Discovering Duckweed: A Nutritional Powerhouse

“Consumers don’t know what the planet has to offer, with 99.9% of edible food sources currently untapped. When digging into this 99.9%, we came across duckweed, the world’s smallest vegetable, which can be produced at a higher density than any other crop we’ve seen in vertical farming,” says Tsipi.

Duckweed, or water lentils, require significantly less space between layers compared to other vertical farm crops, increasing productive surface area tenfold. The biomass of duckweed doubles within 48 hours, compared to lettuce which takes 4-5 weeks to grow. This results in more production with less water, space, and energy. Additionally, water lentils are harvested alive, with each grain being a whole raw living plant. When kept in a sterile package in the fridge, they have a shelf life of six weeks.

“Water lentils are highly nutritious and very easy to consume. They absorb the taste of surrounding dishes, similar to rice. It looks like green caviar and can be added to any dish without changing the taste at all,” Tsipi explains. “The texture is sparkly and alive. It looks like processed food but is much healthier – potentially the craziest innovation I know of.”

Expanding Horizons: From Tel Aviv to Space

GreenOnyx produces and packs approximately 40 tons of water lentils per year in its 1,400-square-meter facility. The product, branded as Wanna GreensĀ®, is marketed through a three-tiered approach: restaurants, direct-to-consumers, and B2B sales to retail and food service channels. GreenOnyx’s water lentils are featured in leading restaurants in Israel, France, and the United States. The company is now initiating its first US-based farm.

Notably, GreenOnyx collaborated with NASA to send water lentils to space, leveraging their nutritional value and closed cultivation methods to provide astronauts with essential nutrients during long missions and for future space habitats.

“We have a branding strategy that we want to implement later on, but we want to make sure that retailers and consumers are comfortable with the product. We want to introduce it to the masses,” says Ben.

Looking ahead, Tsipi envisions a bright future for GreenOnyx. “We have a great future ahead of us with a wide horizon of what we can do, even beyond fresh duckweed. With this completely sterile production system, we’re excited to see what else we can grow and bring to consumers,” she says.

GreenOnyx is set to transform the landscape of fresh food production, making nutritious and efficient vegetable consumption accessible to all while significantly reducing the environmental footprint of traditional farming practices.

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