Let's Talk Farm to Fork

Guillermo Molano from TerraceLab

September 28, 2022 Season 2 Episode 16
Let's Talk Farm to Fork
Guillermo Molano from TerraceLab
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of "Let's Talk Farm to Fork", we're joined by Guillermo Molano from TerraceLab, who we will be talking to about how their urban farming practices are working towards reducing the amount of annual food loss within the fresh produce industry.

https://www.theterracelab.com/

Voiceover:

Welcome to "Let's Talk Farm to Fork," the PostHarvest podcast that interviews people, making an impact in the fresh produce sector. We'll take a deep dive into what they do and find out how they're helping to reduce the amount of food lost or wasted along the farm to fork journey. But before we get started, did you know that according to the UN's food and agriculture organisation, around 45% of the world's fruits and vegetables go to waste each year? If you would like to learn more about how you can practically play your part in maximising fruit and vegetable supplies, whether you're a part of the industry or simply a consumer visit PostHarvest.Com and try out their free online course library today. Now time for your host Mitchell Denton.

Mitchell Denton:

Hi there, and welcome to "Let's Talk Farm to Fork," the PostHarvest podcast that interviews people of interest across the food supply chain. Today on our show, I'm joined by Guillermo Molano from TerraceLab, who I'll be talking to about how their urban farming practices are working towards reducing the amount of annual food loss within the fresh produce industry. So with no further delays, let's get started. Well, thanks for joining me on the podcast Guillermo, how are you?

Guillermo Molano:

Oh, very good. Very good Mitch. Thank you for having me. And, uh, and, for your time, how are you tonight?

Mitchell Denton:

I'm good, thanks for joining me. Before we get into it. I just wanted to give you the opportunity to tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do, and maybe a fun fact about yourself.

Guillermo Molano:

Absolutely, yeah. Uh, my name's Guillermo Molano. I'm originally from Puerto Rico, where I become an electrical engineer. After that, I spent 10 years in Washington, DC working for the fairer government over there as electrical engineer. Until around probably three or four years, where I decide to change path dramatically.

Mitchell Denton:

Yeah.

Guillermo Molano:

And then two years ago where I, I, formally decided to make this official. Until first doing an MBA and doing everything there that helped me to make the change to start this, this venture. Um, as a fun fact, I'm a huge sport fan. I think I can watch any type of sports if there is enough time for it. But my, my sport is basketball. Uh, I play, yeah. I play division two at college, where I was the team captain over there. And that's definitely the sport I love.

Mitchell Denton:

Oh, that's great. I'm a bit of a basketball player myself. I'm six foot three, so, I was always playing defense under the ring. I was very much just a, a long defensive post under the, under the ring the whole time. On that note, let's talk farm to fork. So, would you mind telling us a little more about how your farming as a service" operation works?

Guillermo Molano:

Yes. We are trying to join the effort of creating like a, a farming as a service in a way that bringing the urban farming as urban as possible. Today, we know that urban farming, it's advanced a lot, but still most of the operation is still in the suburban areas of the main cities. And what we are looking is to make it as urban as can be. And, and, and how we are visualising that is, taking advantage of the empty commercial areas that we have today. In one hand, those areas that after COVID, have become without use, if we, if we can put it that way and they're looking for uh, another way of, living or it's, already in use, but still space that is unused. And at the end of the day, we are leveraging the real estate in the cities in order to achieve the goal. Yeah.

Mitchell Denton:

Yeah, okay. So then what would you say separates your urban farming system from your competitors?

Guillermo Molano:

Today, what we are offering is a 24/7 experience. Where it will begin in, in the work environment, uh, where most of the people spend most of the day. At least one third of the day, people spend it in, in a, in an office, on a work environment, if they are not working from home.

Mitchell Denton:

Yep.

Guillermo Molano:

And, and, and what we are saying, but that is not enough. People are more virtual and are more connected than ever. And what we want to give is not just the opportunity to have as fresh as possible at work, but also when you go home in a virtual way, you can continue be part of the experience, where you could spend the rest of the day.

Mitchell Denton:

So then, what's the most immediate challenge you're working on at TerraceLab right now? And how are you looking to overcome it?

Guillermo Molano:

Right now the, the tech itself, um, in, in terms of, there is not a lot of experience in the sector to bring this type of models or this type of technology to a work environment uh, where it's difficult to make a controlled environment, as the most traditional urban farms operate. They all operate like a, like a, like a lab is a very, very sophisticated lab. Making this tech, not just viable, but also like affordable setups that what we want to, what want to make is a more affordable in that way. But at the same time, tech, it's a challenge because it's still expensive in order to, to make it disposable. And there's two aspects of the tech here. It's like the farming, what is the best technique to make the most product possible. And also, what is the most user friendly application, if you wanna call it that in that way, that the people can feel connected to the entire, to the entire process.

Mitchell Denton:

Yeah. Okay. So then, what's the biggest revelation you've uncovered while removing the mileage between farm to fork for customers?

Guillermo Molano:

I would personally, it definitely has been the quality of the produce.

Mitchell Denton:

Hmm.

Guillermo Molano:

It's something incredible. Uh, when I start getting my hands in this, like the difference in quality is something that is difficult to put it in words.

Mitchell Denton:

Mm-hmm

Guillermo Molano:

It's not until you taste it and you try it that you say, "Oh wow, this is a difference here." And, it's difficult to describe it, because at the end of the day, we're talking about produce that, not that difficult to find in the grocery stores, but the quality definitely. I have never imagined that the biggest difference between having produced it at the moment in a, in, in vertical farm. Yeah.

Mitchell Denton:

No. Definitely. Definitely. So then from where you stand, what would you identify as being one of the biggest pain points in the food industry and urban farming?

Guillermo Molano:

I would say at this point, is the collaboration between the community. We have knowledge that when players go over certain level, that collaboration I, that chair of, of knowledge stop. We understand that we all have our secret sauce or what make us different. But we believe that at the end of the day, it's not a new technology, but it's a pretty new sector, um, that have grown because in the beginning it was very collaborative. And we have seen that this collaboration has reduced. And we have seen a lot of articles that are talking about this, that it's been a, a challenge for a lot of people interested in this area. In order to progress, it's like difficult at some point to find information because in addition to that, there is not a lot of expertise around there. And you can just go, let's say that I go to a school or college or to talk with a professor or an expert. This is not that easy to identify that at the, at the end of the day, when you don't have that available, and those are spending most of their, their time in this don't share, then, then become a problem, yep.

Mitchell Denton:

Mm, definitely. So then has the COVID pandemic for better or worse, had any effect on your day to day operations?

Guillermo Molano:

Well, for us, we have seen the pandemic and the quarantine as a opportunity, more than that's something that have stop us or something like that. Because, actually the pandemic join us, myself and my two partners. Like, that's where we found common grounds and I would say that it provide us a unique time to work together.

Mitchell Denton:

Mm. Mm. Okay. So when it comes to food loss and sustainability, what's the biggest area you're curious about and why?

Guillermo Molano:

Personally, it's how to make us a more efficient society. Like in terms of power consumption, what we eat that it will give us all the nutrients that we need.

Mitchell Denton:

Yeah.

Guillermo Molano:

But no, not that much, that we are just producing or growing just for the fun of growing. And for that reason, those techniques that help us produce those products that people want.

Mitchell Denton:

Yeah.

Guillermo Molano:

But in a more efficient way, um, at the end of the day, it's like, it's a constantly education process for us and for the customer. It's a circle, where we all try to, learn every day with the end goal of how to make us a more efficient, uh, community.

Mitchell Denton:

Continuing this thought. Is there a particular group or innovation within the industry that you're excitedly keeping a watchful eye on?

Guillermo Molano:

Yeah. Um, in terms of company, like, a corporation startup, uh, that now is becoming a very important one, InFarm.

Mitchell Denton:

Yep.

Guillermo Molano:

Based in Germany, they are, not just becoming a, a player, but they also are developing great technology. In terms of making the entire idea of farm to the fork very realistic to the people. Uh, uh, and they're doing a lot of advance in the sector.

Mitchell Denton:

Mm. Yeah. What's one thing you wish you had known when you first began your journey on providing a true farm to fork experience?

Guillermo Molano:

Ha. Um, I would say the first thing that I would love to know before, um, is the big challenges of the hospitality sector. It's a very, very unique sector, fascinating sector, but it's a very complex too. And, and the common stance for us at the beginning was, okay, this is perfect for the restaurants and the bars. But, in the process, we note it's not that, that easy. And even more for countries like here in Spain where it's, it's a very strong sector, but it's a very traditional one at the same time, that, they, they have their, the distributors and they are loyal to them and, and they have an entire infrastructure around sector that make very difficult to penetrate. And, and yeah, I think having knew that before, I will say that and the challenge of the, of the OPEX of operating an urban farm. Because that is the key at the end of the day, in our opinion. As much we can reduce the OPEX. I mean, this probably the same for every single business, but in terms of urban farming, as it's a very expensive one, that it's been a specific challenging to reduce costs in order to operate.

Mitchell Denton:

Yeah. Yeah. So as we come to a closed Guillermo, I just wanna ask, what is the major point you really want the listeners to take away from this episode?

Guillermo Molano:

I think that change are always difficult to assimilate. But it is very necessary for all of us, always been open mind with changes and, and we are constantly in change and there is new technology, new practice, and new ways to do everything. But if we, if we are, if we accept that change is going to happen. It's going to make in my opinion, our life easier.

Mitchell Denton:

Definitely. Yeah, No, that's great. Well, that's all for today's episode of "Let's Talk Farm to Fork". Thanks for listening, and thank you Guillermo for joining me today.

Guillermo Molano:

Thank you for your time. It's been a pleasure.

Mitchell Denton:

For any listeners who would like to know more about Guillermo and TerraceLab, check out the link in the description of this episode. Make sure to subscribe to the podcast so that you never miss an episode, and don't forget to leave a review and share with your friends. Until next time you've been listening to "Let's Talk Farm to Fork," a PostHarvest podcast.

Voiceover:

We appreciate you joining us for this episode of let's talk, farm to fork, be sure to rate, review and subscribe. Also, if you would like to learn more about how you can practically play your part in maximizing fruit and vegetable supplies, whether you're a supplier, consumer, or anyone in between the farm to fork journey, visit PostHarvest.Com and try out their free online course library today.