Eddy Badrina is the CEO of Eden Green Technology, a company that pushes the boundaries of green technology to deliver fresh food to local communities. In this conversation with Adam Merkel, he explains how they utilize a groundbreaking concept called vertical farming technology, which revolutionizes how nutritious produce is grown and distributed to achieve food resiliency. He explores the benefits of turnkey greenhouse systems and why it is much better than traditional farming. Eddie also talks about his entrepreneurial journey, opening up about the power of shifting perspectives, reframing experiences, being present, and acknowledging personal struggles without judgment.
Show Notes: – Final Audio
00:00 – Introduction
06:05 – Appreciating low points in life
17:42 – Processing the past
27:46 – Selling BuzzShift and dealing with mental health
34:21 – Being present
48:18 – Eden Green Technology
53:42 – Soil resiliency and regeneration
57:18 – Challenges with vertical farming technology
01:01:52 – Final words
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The answer is to build the resilience we need to power us through the challenges we face so that we become “Change Proof.” Prepare to tackle the future with confidence by reading Adam’s latest book Change Proof: Leveraging the Power of Uncertainty to Build Long-Term Resilience.
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Revolutionizing Fresh Food Production With Eddy Badrina Replay
We need to change how we farm to feed nutritious and fresh food to communities. In this replay episode, my guest is Eddy Badrina, the CEO of Eden Green Technology. His company is a vertical farming technology dedicated to growing and harvesting large amounts of produce locally. Eddy is also the Cofounder of BuzzShift, a digital strategy agency for mid-size brands and organizations.
In this conversation, we discuss the importance of processing difficult experiences and finding growth and gratitude in them. Why gratitude is important, even in difficult times, and can change one’s perspective on even the past. We talk about Eden Green Technology, a company that produces fresh and nutritious food for local communities using vertical farming technology. Vertical farming is a method of growing crops indoors in stacked layers, using less water, land, and pesticides than traditional farming.
We talk about the company’s mission to improve food security, reduce food waste, and promote health and wellness for people and the planet, as well as Eddy’s personal journey from being a political consultant to becoming a social entrepreneur and his advice for aspiring leaders. Sit back and enjoy this replay episode of my conversation with Eddy Badrina.
Randi and I took some time to go live at a home that we have had for a number of years in Massachusetts. It’s on this little island. It’s funny because, on this island, we can sometimes feel every season in an hour. The way that the weather moves around here is pretty remarkable. Although I should not say all four seasons because this time of year, it toggles back and forth between fall and winter. It’s mostly winter. Now, it’s sunny and warm. It has me in a warm and sunny mood and feeling great.
I do not take that for granted because even though I’m constantly reminding myself and others about how important gratitude is. There is so much that we can appreciate at any moment, regardless of what is happening in our personal lives or even in the bizarre world that we find ourselves in at times. Even with that reminder constantly in front of me, I go through my moods. Sometimes they track the weather.
On a great day, I feel great. On a sunny day, I feel sunny. This is one of those moments where I’m feeling exceptionally sunny and happy to have somebody to speak to. We are all in our little bubbles at times. I love the show in so many ways and for many reasons. The feedback we have gotten from so many of you is that it has brightened your day and week, giving you some new insights, perhaps to think about.
I get the same thing out of this and the conversations I get to have with people, both friends, colleagues, and people that I have never spoken to before. It’s an astounding thing. It’s a great opportunity. This is one of those days. I get to meet somebody for the first time and have a completely fresh conversation. I have no expectations about where it goes. I’m going to follow the breadcrumbs and see where they lead us. Let’s all have fun.
[00:04:38] My guest is Eddy Badrina. He is the CEO of Eden Green Technology. It’s a vertical farming technology company dedicated to changing the way we farm our food and feed our communities. He is also the Cofounder of BuzzShift, a digital strategy agency for mid-sized brands and organizations. He has years of experience in growing organizations, leading teams, and bringing brands to market. He has had a mission-critical role at the US Department of State, Executive Leadership at a White House Initiative, and director-level positions at two successful startups. Eddy, it is a pleasure to have you on the show. Thanks for being here.
Thanks for having me. I appreciate being on here. I’m excited. You said it’s nice and warm there. It is one of the most perfect spring days here in Dallas. I’m coming off a weekend of being outside with my family and kids going for a bike ride. It’s a wonderful spring day. I’m feeling the same way.
It might be too, that we’ve been on one degree or another, lockdown like everybody. Maybe there is a little stir-crazy that it’s being given permission through the weather as well. I want to start with your bio. It’s incredibly impressive. I want to know if you could share with our audience one thing that is not a part of that bio that you would love for people to know about you.
Bios are a little bit misleading because they only hit the high points. They do not tell you about the four years that I spent in career wilderness, in between my White House gig and starting BuzzShift. It was from 2006 to 2010. It does not show up on paper. It’s hard to explain but looking back on it, I’m as proud of that four-year dip as I am of the high points that my bio touches on.
That only can come through a level of self-awareness perspective and an attitude of gratefulness. I have been reading a book that talks about how your memories can change based on your posture and reactions towards the memories. The events are the same but depending on your attitude towards it, how you process it, and whether you do the work to process it, a memory can either be a negative physiological and emotional state or the same memory can trigger positive emotional states and positive physiological reactions but it’s all based on how you process and view it in hindsight. That four-year low point, I look back on it. It was not a joyful time but I’m grateful for it, nonetheless.Memory can either be negative or positive emotional states and physiological reactions. It all comes down to how you process them in hindsight. Click To Tweet
That is such an important point you made. It’s a subtle one. I do not want to run past it too quickly to be grateful for something, even in recognition of the fact that it was not joyful. It was not the best time of my life to be in the “dip” as you called it. We have all had dips and sometimes those dips could be years long. For many of us, we have had that occasion but to be able to look back on it and often we hear you look back and learn lessons.
That is, in many ways, a big part of a conscious pivot is the recognition that as you are pivoting, not only is that change going to be all headed toward growth. Ultimately, in the midst of the worst storm, you can know for sure you are going to grow as a result of whatever it is that you are dealing with. Even further out into the future, you will be able to look back on it and feel genuine gratitude. We are not talking about trying to tell a lie.
As you process the events and understand the failures, sadness, and grind in the context of where you are, it’s not whitewashing. It is changing your memories and past. It gets a little heady but you can change your past in the sense that as you process and do the hard work of going through those hard times with a counselor, group of friends, or a trusted one. You can shift your perspective on what happened there and it will not cause you continued stress and anxiety.
You can tell how well you have processed something by the nearness. If you have a memory, for instance, for me, I was coming off a year and a half as a startup Director of Communications. It was a slow downhill slide. I got my MBA at the School of Hard Knocks. From a year and a half of working in this startup, I got to see everything that went on in finance, operations, sales, marketing, the whole deal, and investor relations.
I learned how to run a business by being in that environment and learning how not to run a business. When I can look back at that and say, “That was a tough year and a half.” It was followed by two years of, “What do I want to do next? How do I start my new business? Can I do this myself?” If I only take a look at that from a negative point of view, it’s a hard year and a half.
If I take a look at it is in terms of that was my MBA that I got paid to go through. I learned the hardest stuff that you will never find in an MBA sitting in a classroom. All of a sudden, that changes my perspective. It’s not whitewashing it. I look back at that year and a half. I do not look back at it with anger or frustration. It’s not near to me because I have processed it.
Your stomach does not churn when you have a memory triggered. It could be 1 million things. It could be an email, someone’s name, or whatever it is. It could be a memory that brings you right back to that spot. The cortisol starts to course through your body with that shaking.
That is how you know if you have processed it well. Whether you can look back on that and it does not trigger those things. If it does trigger those things, it means it’s near to you and you have not done the hard work of processing through it because you get stuck in there. It happens with PTSD all the time. You get stuck in that loop. All of a sudden, you are in that reality. You are in that past event.
The only way to get on the other side of PTSD, which I have had to do through a previous experience is to finish the story which is, “I came out of it and I’m alive and healthy. I learned a ton from that.” When you can finish that story and you are arm’s length away from it or you are not near to it anymore, that is when your past changes.
Tell me if you go along with this. I would say finishing the story is the equivalent of closing the loop. Otherwise, that open-loop continues to repeat for many people and I have had that experience myself as well. It’s interesting because we do a lot of work. Our business is a model for speaking to organizations about organizational and individual resilience but the way that we deliver our content is through books. We do a lot of writing but it’s a lot of public speaking.
We work with public speakers. Interestingly enough, when you are wanting to close the loop or finish the story, one of the early signs of spring, that first shoot whether it’s the daffodil or forsythia, is the ability to speak about it. Often, what we would say to somebody who is contemplating sharing a story is you do not typically want to share a story you are still bleeding from.
It’s when you keep it on the sideline for the moment. When you can speak about it, then you have stopped bleeding from it. It’s interesting too that the process of speaking about it or getting prepared to cauterize the wound allows you to be past it. Part of the healing or process that allows you to finish the story is to be thinking about, “If I was going to teach this to someone else or share the experience that I went through with other people, could I do that? What value would come from it?”
The same book that I’m reading is called the Anatomy of the Soul. It’s looking at neuroscience and spirituality and how they are closely linked. The author’s name is Curt Thompson. One of the things that he challenges you to do is to write your autobiography. In this case, what we are talking about is right through that event. He says to handwrite it because when you handwrite it, you engage both your right brain, which is thinking about the event logically. When you write, there is a tactile left-brain component to it, which makes you stop and think and then feel the event.
You talk about resilience and psychology. By the way, I’m a Psychology major, which is a whole other story of how I got from that into entrepreneurship. When you talk about resilience and grit, being able to write that autobiography engages both the left and right brain and then speaking it to one person, to multiple people, and then speaking it onstage. That whole process helps you and gives you more perspective on that actual event and it helps you maintain that healthy distance from what happened in the past.
It happened but it does not define you. There is a separation between the event itself and what it says about you or what you make it mean about you. It’s interesting because where you said that you can change your past or memories when you talk about processing it, what was part of your process? I do not expect you to share the whole process. Anybody who is an entrepreneur has been a part of a business where the ship is going down.
It’s one of those things that it’s not quite as life and death as being on the deck of the Titanic but it is because we make it say so much about who we are that everything that we imagine is the worst-case scenario is transpiring in front of us. Investor’s money, their equity is disappearing, promises that have been made are not being kept and there is a lot of other sinking ship moments, desperation, and desperate acts that go on in those moments. That is not an easy thing to experience.
I had good friends and colleagues who asked me hard questions like, “Why does this define you so much? What part of your identity is this taking hold of?” As I have grown older and had a chance to do multiple startups, I wish I could get it without having to do the reps but sometimes you have to be understanding that my identity ought not to be wrapped up in my work.
A good friend, an older gentleman told me a long time ago, “Think about the end in mind.” The end for us is our headstone. It’s our obituary. I hope to God that in my obituary, on my headstone, no one ever mentions Eden Green or BuzzShift because if that makes it to the top of the list of my life, I missed out. I wasted my life. I want them and I think everyone wants to have on their headstone, “A beloved father, trusted friend, faithful husband,” and all those things. No one ever put their company name on their headstone.
If you know that in the end, I want to be known as a beloved father, for being a faithful husband, a trusted friend, and a mentor. If I work my way backward, it puts in perspective my role as a CEO and my past role. Win, lose, or draw, it puts in perspective all of those. Once I can put those in perspective, then I can differentiate my identity from the win or loss. Ironically, it’s much easier to differentiate yourself from the loss than it is from the win.
Why is that?
All professionals measure themselves on the wins. That is the bio you read. LinkedIn does not want to hear about your failures. You are defining yourself on your successes on LinkedIn or anywhere else on your bio. The wins help. The wins become more enmeshed in your identity than the losses. You can rationalize or write off the losses. Whether you internalize them or are able to process them well, you can justify those. It’s hard to separate yourself from those wins and say, “The successes and acquisitions are as equally not apart as me as the failures.” That is hard to do for most folks because entrepreneurs are a little bit by nature crazy and narcissistic. They need those pelts on the wall to tell them that they are worth something.
It’s so interesting because I have a whole agenda for where I thought this conversation is going to go but this is beautiful. It’s always funny to attribute. Attribution is important. I buy that but so much of me inside says that there are no original thoughts. We are remembering our words from a prior iteration of ourselves or someone else’s. Wayne Dyer gets credit for saying something like, “We change the way we look at things, the things we look at change.” That is what you are talking about is that you can change your memories, and your past, even. We are not talking woo-woo here to be clear.
Another author puts it, “You have to pay attention to what you are paying attention to.” If you are paying attention to the negative pieces and not aware of them, it will lead you down a dark path and it will affect your grit and resilience. The book, The I Love My Life Challenge will affect the way you love or hate your life. You have to pay attention to what you are paying attention to. That is important. It’s not woo-woo. It’s very crucial to make it as an entrepreneur or a professional.
There is a book called The I Love My Life Challenge. I have a hoodie that says, “I Love My Life.” I gave a TED Talk with that. You would think it was the entirety of our brand. If there was something that was written on my headstone that I would feel proud of, it would be encouraging people to love their lives no matter what which is the through-line of that particular talk is a pivot moment.
It’s a pivotal moment in life to take charge of what you decide something means including the memory of something from the past. I wish I could remember the specific date that I woke up. When my feet hit the floor, as I had been accustomed for years that upon my feet hitting the floor, I would feel this rush of heaviness, anxiety, anxiousness, and even dread at times. This was during my career in law. I was an attorney for eighteen years.
It was somewhere in the middle there that it became so readily apparent to me that my life did not feel like any life I had ever expected or planned. In an instant, I decided that I would look at things differently that morning. As soon as my feet hit the floor that day, instead of feeling this rush of anxiety, I said those four words, “I love my life.” I only said them not because it came to me through some channel or something.
I was watching Jerry Maguire and I could not fall asleep the night before. Jerry’s mentor, Dicky Fox in that movie says those words. He goes, “I have failed as much in my life as I have succeeded but I love my life.” Those were the words. He said, “I love my life. I love my wife and I wish you my kind of success.” I went to sleep with that in my head. I woke up that morning. I put my feet on the floor and I said, “I love my life,” and that was it.
From that moment, it’s not that everything shifted or changed in my life but I changed my story. I was taking ownership of my story. I had closed the loop on the failures and issues that I had been dealing with. I did not finish the story at that moment but I took ownership of it. That was a pivotal moment for me. Do you know when something like that happens to you?
I’m pretty transparent about my mental health and the ups and downs that have been through. It was on January 4th, 2019. I came to a moment where I realized something had to change about my life. My business partner and I sold BuzzShift in 2016. We thought it was going to go well. We had a chance to take a step back and say, “How would we run this differently?”
Eleven months later, we had a chance to buy it back. We reacquired BuzzShift eleven months later. I’m a man of faith so I felt that God had pulled the rug out from under me. When this acquisition came up, it was out of the blue. I’m very thankful for it, though. Eleven months later, he shoved the rug back under me when we acquired it. I found myself going, “I want to be thankful for this gift of reacquisition but I do not want to be doing it.”
My business partner, Cameron, and I had thought about, “What is next?” We have a two-year employment agreement, “What is after this?” All of a sudden, instead of, “What is next?” “It’s this.” I went through this from 2017 until 2018 and I was miserable. It came to a point where I was like, “I do not want to be doing this anymore.”
Every day, I would get up and sometimes I did not want to get up and a lot of folks who are reading, probably know that feeling of this dread and anxiety of getting up for another day. It was not because of the company or my team. I built that team. I loved the people there. I loved what we were doing as a team but that is not where my heart was. My posture towards owning businesses is not owning businesses. We sold it again. We have the great fortune of having sold the same business twice.
I told my staff at the last staff meeting before I left, “I have never thought of owning BuzzShift as owning it. I was charged with being a good steward of it. It was a product of Cameron and the gifts that were given to us in our head, our intellectual, mental, and leadership gifts but it was, in itself, a derivative gift. It was meant to be shared and stewarded. Me selling my part in the company was acknowledging, ‘I have tried to steward this company as best I could over the last years and we found someone who could steward it as well or better than I can.’”
I’m jumping around but it was a long process after I came to that low point in my life through therapy, friends, and a network of leaders and colleagues that helped me realize that it was all right to hand off that company and to start something else. It was not defining my identity. The best thing that I could do for myself and my team was to find someone else to help steward that company better than I could.
[00:32:05] Once I got processed through that, it freed up my mind because I still want it to be excellent and diligent in whatever I was doing. I was charged with stewarding that company so I had to be excellent with it. If I was not finding someone who was as excellent as I was, it was doing a disservice for me to the God who had given me that company to grow and steward. For me, it was instrumental in helping me let it go and differentiate myself from it. I knew I was stewarding it and that I could hand that stewardship off to someone else.
There are people that have transitioned and moved on past an event, trauma, period, or season in their life where they felt the way you were describing where, like me, I ended up in the hospital with an anxiety attack one Saturday morning, and things like that.
I wanted to jump off a bridge.
I so appreciate, Eddy, that you would be willing to even say that because a lot of the personal pain that we have, for a variety of reasons, we keep to ourselves. We do not allow ourselves to be that transparent or vulnerable. We have learned in a variety of ways that sometimes vulnerability is making yourself a target even. Some people have moved past something and they are now reading this conversation and perhaps thinking to themselves, “I have this opportunity to go back.”
When I think of someone, a season, or a situation in my life, they can look at it and change the memory or past. There are also people who have not yet found something else or something more or different or better. That thing has not materialized. I can imagine people reading going, “I would love to be sitting in the seat of CEO-ship of a new organization and life and looking back and going, ‘I’m grateful for that now.’” That seems to be the person who is at the top of the mountain going, “The climb sucks.”
What do we say to people in both of those camps? It’s a chicken and egg thing. Is it the case that you look at your history in a certain way and looking in that particular way at that history changes the potential of a future or even the present? Is it that you get to a future or a present that is better and then look back and change that history or the way that you look at that history?
There is a third way and it is to be present in it. If you are reading and waking up every day and that dread as your feet hit the floor is palpable, recognize that and do not ignore it because there are two ways that you cannot process it well. One is to ignore it, which most people do. They look at past events or present events and they put it out of their mind. They are like, “I do not want to deal with it.” They think they have moved past it but they have not or they relive it again and again. Neither of those is healthy.
[00:36:37] The healthy way is to be present in it. I’m an avid book reader. Surprisingly, I do not read a lot of “self-help books.” The Curt Thompson one is not a self-help book. It is a good look at neuroscience and spirituality. It’s the Anatomy of the Soul. There is another book by a guy named Terry Looper. He is on the spiritual side of things. It’s called Sacred Pace. One of the things that he says in his decision-making process is to get in neutral.
There are a couple of things you need to do before you can get in neutral. I will not spoil it for anyone. In Sacred Pace, it’s the last of 4 or 5 steps. When he talks about getting in neutral, it’s getting to a place where you are good with an outcome either way it goes. If you are feeling like, “I am getting crushed at work. I’m getting crushed at my startup. It’s failing. I’m in the midst. I’m in the doldrums.” get in neutral and find a way to get yourself to be all right whether it goes up or down.
When you can get in neutral, your decision-making process becomes that much clearer about what you need to do next. Also, when you get in neutral, it does not affect so much your psychological, mental, or emotional state if things go left, right, up, or down because you are in neutral. You are waiting for the next thing and that requires being in it.When you can get in a neutral state, your decision-making process becomes much clearer about what you need to do next. Click To Tweet
It is a very powerful place to be. We have a book called Change Proof. There is a process or through-line in that book that involves a process of pausing, asking, and choosing. That pausing is what you are talking about. It’s this idea of you removing the judgment. Take a look at any situation that has you by the throat. We know what it feels like to feel like that is stepping on your neck. If you can do what you described, which is, it’s not good or bad, right or wrong, fair or unfair. It’s something you can look at neutrally. It’s like shifting your car into neutral and then deciding in that moment, which gear is next.
You are now able to choose because when we are thinking that something is threatening to us bad or however the way we look at it, it’s difficult then to shift into something like gratitude or, “I love my life no matter what.” I can look at that situation and change the way I’m seeing it and then it’s different. You have altered the past. You cannot alter the past when you are in first gear and first gear is, “This thing sucks and I suck because of this.”
That is why entrepreneurs are always in that high gear. It’s so very important for entrepreneurs and leaders to take some serious portions of their day to think, process, be present, and not keep on driving on. It’s very practical. For most healthy CEOs, it’s a dirty secret but we do less “work” than most people. I have had conversations, with neighbors, friends across the street, and colleagues, who talk about like, “What is your inbox look like? What are your decisions throughout the day? You must be working 12 to 14 hours a day in a startup.”
I’m like, “This is my third startup. One as a participant, one as an owner, and this one as a CEO. The key to it is to not put yourself in the position of having to make so many decisions because it takes up your mind space. What you need to do is to get a little higher level and suss out what are the most important decisions you need to make and then delegate everything else to folks that you trust and hire.
In the beginning, as you are starting up a company, you are making all of these decisions but eventually, you want to be carving out massive amounts of time to read because reading and processing will help you make those bigger decisions that are crucial to your company’s success. I tell entrepreneurs all the time who are in the middle of it. Maybe they have 1, 2, or 3 employees. I say, “List out everything from top to bottom, stack rank what is the most important things that you can be doing.
On the other side, stack the things that you like doing with things that you least like doing. Everything on the bottom on both of those lists, try to hire out as quickly as you can, even if it’s at the expense of your margin or take-home pay because that will help you grow. As you move up that list, you have to align what is most important versus what you like to do the most and get to where you are only doing the things that align with most important and what you like to do the most and then hire and delegate everything else on up that progression.” You should have, as a part of your yearly planning, a list that is both crossed off and remaining of what I have crossed off that is a success.
I can look at that and say, “I love it. I can appreciate it. I will always outsource X, Y, and Z or I will always hire for X, Y, and Z.” Work your way off into your annual plan should be, “I need to X out these because then it will help me focus more on those top-level things.” Those will make you very successful in a short amount of time because they compound on themselves. It’s like compounding interest.
The 5 or 10 minutes that you spend on scheduling turns into an hour during the week. If you turn that hour into thinking and reading to help huge business-making processes, talking to your investors, mentoring your top-level staff, or building a farm team of people who are rising in the ranks. Every hour that you take from those bottom tasks and put through the top compound upon themselves because then you are able to move the business that much more with those high-level decisions. In a matter of time, you free up two more hours to then cross off the list and hire up. You can get very quickly to the things that you love to do and that are most important to the health of your business, and that is when you are cooking with gas.
One of those fundamental questions of what distinguishes or separates effective leaders from less effective leaders is something like you are asking now. What is mine to do and what’s not mine to do? It’s an essential question. When everything is yours to do, you have a clear sign that you have painted yourself into a corner into a very restrictive box.
Taking what you described, which is this T-chart exercise. Anybody who is reading, you can write these things down but it is such great advice to create that T-chart. Ultimately, carving out time to think is a novel concept that you schedule a time to think about. That is yours to do. When you abdicate to someone else the high level of strategic thinking for a business, you should not be surprised when things do not work out the way you want them to work out.
You cannot be the chief cook and bottle washer, as the old saying goes. In the beginning, that is the case and there are plenty of people who go, “I’m at that beginning and that is what I have to do.” As fast as possible, one of those inflection or pivot points for you will be when you start to look at it the way you described it and answer that question, “What is mine to do? What is not mine to do?” What is not yours to do is not yours to do.
[00:47:22] You cannot violate that sacred rule because every time you do it, you are taking away from what you are there to do and where the highest and best use of your time can be utilized. This is not about figuring out how to work ten hours extra a day. That is not what we are talking about because then we get into this other place where people are being convinced that if they do find that extra 5, 10 hours, or whatever it might be, I could do with three hours of sleep before I was asleep at night, that what you end up with is burnout.
You end up like Goldman Sachs. With burnout, ultimately, the cost of exhaustion is massive. I will use this as a bridge into this conversation about resilience. I want to talk about your new venture, Eden Green Technology, a vertical farming technology company. Not everybody knows what that is. I’m fortunate to have a son-in-law that is part of a foundation where they do regenerative farming. I’m used to this conversation a little bit but would you share with us more about the company and its mission? I want you to answer this question. How is Green Technology going to produce resilience for us? Ultimately, how do we become more resilient or change-proof as a result of the work that you are doing?
Our mission is to change the way that we farm food and that we feed people in communities. We want to do that by creating a mesh network of independently owned and operated greenhouses whether they are owned by entrepreneur-led investor groups, municipalities, state and local regional authorities, or nation-states.
We are talking with a number of Native American reservations and tribes about putting one of these on their reservations. When you can create a mesh network of these greenhouses, you are fundamentally changing the supply chain of nutritious fresh food to the people around you. What we are doing, in essence, is redefining what locally grown means. Vertical farming is hydroponics. There is nothing GMO or steroid-ish about it.
It is addressing plants in the way that they want to grow in the most optimal way possible, which is feeding them a constant flow of nutrients at a certain water temperature and flow, combined with the climate around them, the humidity, the light that they get throughout the day, and being able to control all of those optimizes a plant’s growth. If you multiply that by 18 feet high and 1.5 acres large. 1.5 acres of one of our greenhouses grow the equivalent of 35 traditional farming acres.
1.5 acres is equal to 35 traditional farming acres. 35 farming acres produce roughly 500 tons of leafy greens. In 1.5 acres of our greenhouse, you could produce 500 tons of leafy greens. You can do that using 90,000 gallons of water a year. That sounds a lot but, in my household, each consumes about 45,000 gallons of water a year. In two households’ worth of water consumption, you can grow 500 tons of leafy greens. You do that using minimal lights and electricity costs for a facility that size.
It’s only 1.5 acres and uses so few resources. You can place those almost anywhere in the world but it works well in urban populations, which also is where people need the most nutritious greens because of the density of the population. All of a sudden, you go from 2,000 or 3,000 miles away from getting your leafy greens to 20 miles away to 2 miles away.
Our R&D facility is right across the street from a Walmart Distribution Center. You are changing how you define locally grown so that it’s consistent year-round. We do 11 to 13 harvests a year in one of our greenhouses. No longer do you have to wait for a month’s shipments. Every other day, these greens are getting to the shelves and people’s kitchens. It’s constant, consistent, and safe because you are eliminating this huge supply line.
Farms in the supply chain wastes around 30% to 40% of greens to get from the farm to the shelf, and once it’s on the shelf, it only lasts for so long. You are eliminating waste. The pathogens that are in-ground, air, and water, you are eliminating all of that so it’s consistent and safe. Also, because it’s so close, it’s accessible to almost anyone.
Talk about the soil here. I do not want it so much to be the science of it, although, we could do a little bit. I’m curious about how the soil is regenerating. How is it that this soil is so resilient enough to produce 11 to 13 harvests in a year?
Hydroponics uses what are called growth mediums. There are two types of growth mediums. One is called rockwool and it’s what it sounds like. It is rock heated to 1,000 degrees and then spun into this wool, cotton candy-like medium that plants can grow in. It’s inorganic but it does not bring any of the pathogens or bacteria. You only give it what it needs. We put in nutrients and good growing activators like bacilli in there to help the plant grow.
There is another type of medium called Jiffy plug. It’s peat and coco husk. You put the seeds in these mediums, they grow in these mediums, and then the water flow that comes through it gives it all the nutrients that it needs. When it’s time to be harvested, you take it out of our plant spots. You cut the plant and then that whole thing is recyclable. The Jiffy plugs are recyclable. You throw it in the compost and start all over again. You are planting new and new seeds.
We do not use soil, which most people think is essential to plant growth. Soil is not essential to plant growth. Soil is nature’s medium for plants but most of us know we are running out of efficacious topsoil. The most conservative estimates will say anywhere in the US, our topsoil is probably good for anywhere from 50 to 200 more harvests. That is not a lot. It’s over-tilling the same crops every year. It sucks.
We did not learn from The Dust Bowl era.
It’s repeating itself. The only alternative to becoming more and more is to keep on putting extra fertilizer and all that stuff into the soil, which is not doing it any good or you find alternatives to grow plants that are not in that soil. You give the soil a chance to rest because it’s not having to be pressed so hard. In regenerative farming, you rotate the crops that are going through there. We do not think we are the silver bullet.
It’s a combination of things.
We know what we can grow best and we also know from farmers that they know what they can grow best in that soil, especially on a rotating crop. These certain crops are about 50 to 100 varietals that can be grown commercially viable in our system and that is what we want to grow. There are a lot more varietals, probably 200-plus that we can grow in our system but as a greenhouse as an economic unit, the verdict is still out on whether that greenhouse can be profitable, as well as being able to grow those 250 varietals.
What is the biggest challenge to this new budding industry?
1) Education. “What is hydroponics?” “Your plants are not GMO. They are not on steroids. How are you growing so fast?” 2) Credibility. People cannot believe that you can grow in a greenhouse vertically 18 feet. Economically, people cannot believe that our greenhouses are economic units unto themselves and that they are profitable because a lot of what you are seeing is technologically innovative farming that is unprofitable. It’s not sustainable and scalable. It’s like a technological marvel.
We did not talk about nutrition.
Spinach is spinach. Kale is kale. You have to come down to the R&D facility. As we roll more of these out to go to these greenhouses, we did a consumer taste test with a major retailer. They have this hedonic scale of what is the most palatable or enjoyable. The greens that we submitted for their hedonic scale were second only to ice cream on the hedonic scale for their consumers. They loved them so much. They were so enjoyable.
The quality of the nutrition, vitamins, and the things that are associated with food or vegetable did not change either?
It did not change.
That is in the DNA of the seed.
It’s in a seed and then the nutrients we give them.
It’s the medium to give that seed the best environment to grow in.
It’s the medium and then the environment around. That is the secret to our success. Also, the microclimate that we have created around each plant spot.
It’s such good news to hear this. I do not glance at something in the paper and the news or whatever that gives me that sinking feeling. It’s mostly because of the blessings that were given to us. You are a dad so am I. We have four kids. We are expecting our grandchild. At the same time, the world that a child is inheriting is a different world than the world that I inherited. There is not a lot of good news often about our climate, changes, and things we are discussing. How do you continue to feed the world? It’s remarkable.
It provides our population with resilience. There is a huge movement going on talking about food resiliency and city resiliency. It’s the ability of communities to empower them to take hold of their nutrition and well-being. We are addressing food resiliency with these Native American tribes. What I’m most excited about is being able to change the narrative of these reservations from being underserved, impoverished, and unfortunate situations to, all of a sudden, being the provider and the source of local nutritious greens to a 400-mile radius around them. What national karma is that where you can change the narrative of these tribes and reservations? That, to me, is a story I cannot wait to tell once we close one of these things.
You are talking about turning around history. Turning around the past with something so positive at the moment and for the future. We are wrapping up here, but are you being met with open arms in that conversation?
Absolutely. The pandemic has accelerated the trend of things like food resiliency and fragile supply chain. People are coming out of the pandemic where capital was a little frozen and people did not know what to do. Now that capital is becoming more and more available and is having to be utilized because of the stimulus and injection of more cash into the economy, cash sitting on the sidelines is becoming less and less valuable by the day so people are having to invest it.The pandemic has accelerated the food resiliency and the fragile supply chain. Click To Tweet
They are looking for things a little outside their comfort zone because they have to. We are getting a lot more traction because people are willing to take that chance. They see the environmental realities, as well as the economic inflationary realities and they are saying, “We got to put our cash to use and this seems like a good way to do it.”
It’s EdenGreen.com. Ordinarily, I’ll say, “If you found this episode to be helpful, please share it with someone,” and that continues to be the case. However, I also feel called to say that sharing this episode with someone else for them to know what Eden Green is doing and to become a little bit more aware of what hydroponics is in this context and how it is a point of resilience for all of us.
As you said, food resiliency is something that will be more on our minds going forward than it has been. Ahead of the, “What do we do?” which a lot of people are already asking but more and more will. This is a solution to that, it’s part of a solution. It’s not the only one but it’s an important part. To start with awareness is key here. Thank you so much, Eddy, for being on the show. The way that this conversation was tracked was interesting. I enjoyed it. Thank you for being here.
Adam, thanks for having me. It was a pleasure to be on.
I want to remind everyone as well as we say so long for the moment that what Eddy shared at the beginning about changing your memories. It is true, at least in my experience, that you can have a moment where you decide that is where you are at. “This is where I’m at.” It could be right this moment. For me, I woke up one morning, I put my feet on the floor, and I did not feel anxious. That might sound strange but it was my companion.
I was waking up feeling that day after day, I did not even remember what it felt like to not wake up that way after so long. One morning I woke up, and I decided that what I wanted was to simply love my life with all of its challenges and everything no matter what. That was a choice that I got to make that day. We get to do that at this moment. Eddy, do you love your life? I’m asking this question.
I do. I love every second of it. It is a blast.
It’s a wild ride. That is something we all agree upon. Enjoy the ride and we will see you again soon. Thanks so much.
- Eden Green Technology
- Eddy Badrina
- Anatomy of the Soul
- The I Love My Life Challenge
- Sacred Pace
- Change Proof
About Eddy Badrina
Eddy Badrina is CEO of Eden Green Technology, a vertical farming technology company dedicated to changing the way we farm our food, and feed our communities. He is also co-founder of BuzzShift, a digital strategy agency for mid-sized brands and organizations. Eddy has over thirteen years of experience in growing organizations, leading teams, and bringing brands to market. He has had mission-critical roles at the US Department of State, executive leadership at a White House Initiative, and director level positions at two successful startups.