A high-tech, indoor vertical farm in Avondale aims to shake up the future of agribusiness.
From the outside, Willo Farm looks like an average warehouse in Avondale. Inside, the 80,000-square-foot compound houses lush greenery growing from futuristic walls in a fully controllable environment removed from the Arizona heat outside. The hidden oasis is the brainchild of brothers Sam and John Bertram.
In 2017, the Bertrams started OnePointOne, a Silicon Valley tech company that uses automation to grow plants indoors, purportedly free from heavy metals and using 99 percent less water than traditional methods. Sam Bertram says he and John asked themselves how they could quickly make a positive impact on a large scale. The answer? To address what they view as the world’s biggest problem: malnourishment.
Enter Willo, a direct-to-consumer, fully automated indoor vertical farm employing a mix of aeroponics and artificial intelligence.
“In order to solve the nutrition problem, you’d have to figure out agriculture… If we can figure out a way to grow plants better, more sustainably, in more locations, then we have a really good shot of at least helping the No. 1 problem on planet Earth,” Bertram says.
“Plants are medicine,” he continues, and getting “enjoyable” fresh produce, grown locally at Willo, to members in a subscription-based community supported agriculture (CSA) box is a way to serve the company’s ethos.
“There are so many different ways to make yourself healthy, but most of them suck. Like exercising is not fun for 95 percent of people,” Bertram says. “If you can enjoy a piece of produce, it will compel you to eat it more often. We’re simple creatures in the end.”
Willo boxes come with a “set variety” of produce for two ($69) or four ($99), delivered every other week. Bertram says 2022 plans include meal plans and users’ ability to “grow” their own farms online.
“The vision for Willo is basically to have your own personalized farm: You plant whatever on earth you want to plant inside of your area of the farm, it is grown in the facility and then it is shipped to your door… It’s basically FarmVille, but real.”
They intend to establish high-tech farms around the globe to provide nourishment “regardless of climate or geography.”