Log In

Reset Password

Farmers may sue to block vertical farm plan

Question marks: farmers could take legal action to block the Government’s plans to set up a vertical-farming industry (Photograph supplied)

Farmers could take legal action to block government plans to set up a vertical-farming industry on the island.

The Bermuda Farmers Association is “addressing the legal path towards presenting an injunction” against the proposal.

In an interview with The Royal Gazette last week, David Burt, the Premier, revealed that “a deal has been done“ to develop a vertical-farming industry in Bermuda which was due to go before the Cabinet imminently.

But the BFA said that Mr Burt’s comments raised more questions than answers, and that island farmers should have been consulted about the project.

A spokesman for the association said: “What are the details please? Has a deal been actually signed without approval by Cabinet? What taxpayers’ funds are being committed? Where is the consultation with the growers and those in the Government who actually work in this area?”

The association also questioned the Premier’s claims that vertical farms had the potential to boost food production.

The spokesman said: “The micro-greens that were mentioned as the crops to be grown represent a very small percentage of food items consumed in the fruit and vegetable sector. Can the Premier elaborate?

“Is the Premier aware that one grower is presently unable to sell this product grown in Bermuda due to the finite demand?

“Has the Premier looked into helping grow existing farm operations that are trying to expand into the salads market? Several new greenhouses have been constructed in the past two years and have the potential to address this.

“The BFA asks again: how can one produce cheaper goods with both the high capital and operating costs of such a facility, given Bermuda’s very expensive electricity rates?”

Vertical farm company made loss

The Government first announced plans for a vertical farm in November 2020, when Wayne Furbert, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, said it was in final negotiations with New Jersey-based AeroFarms.

Two years on, those talks appear to have stalled and in his interview last week, Mr Burt did not reveal the name of any company that had signed the deal with the Government.

But a legal notice published in The Royal Gazette last month suggests that Florida-based vertical-farming company Kalera was setting up a Bermuda entity through a German subsidiary in conjunction with the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation.

The notice read: “Notice is hereby given that Kalera GmbH on behalf of Kalera Public Limited Company and the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation are applying to incorporate a local company with limited liability to be called Kalera Bermuda Ltd which shall have unrestricted objects and the rights, powers and privileges of a natural person.“

According to reports, Kalera posted a net loss of $78.7 million in the second quarter of this year.

The results prompted Jim Leighton, the president and CEO of Kalera, to say that expansion plans were on hold and that the opening of new plants in Hawaii, Minnesota, Ohio and Washington State had been suspended.

Mr Leighton was quoted as saying: “For us to grow and to be successful, and to serve our purpose … we need to figure out how this economic engine works so we can reach sustainable margins for reinvestment, for growth.

“We’re not just using investors’ money to grow, we’re using our own money that is basically created organically from the business model which we created.”

A spokesman for the Bermuda Farmers Association said: “Has the Government looked at the company they have chosen in detail? The BFA finds them to be unprofitable to date.”

This newspaper first asked the Government questions about Kalera’s involvement with the project on October 14. We earlier asked for more details about the project, including how many farms are planned, what vegetables could be grown, and if vertical farming was viable in Bermuda considering the high cost of electricity.

No response to our questions was received by press time.

Mr Burt’s claim that a vertical-farming industry would create jobs — the scheme is one of four central planks in the Government’s Economic recovery Plan — was also questioned.

The spokesman said: “Bermudians presently do not choose to work in the farm sector. Why will this be different with a new venture?”

Kalera did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

You must be Registered or to post comment or to vote.

Published October 25, 2022 at 7:32 am (Updated October 25, 2022 at 7:32 am)

Farmers may sue to block vertical farm plan

What you
Need to
1. For a smooth experience with our commenting system we recommend that you use Internet Explorer 10 or higher, Firefox or Chrome Browsers. Additionally please clear both your browser's cache and cookies - How do I clear my cache and cookies?
2. Please respect the use of this community forum and its users.
3. Any poster that insults, threatens or verbally abuses another member, uses defamatory language, or deliberately disrupts discussions will be banned.
4. Users who violate the Terms of Service or any commenting rules will be banned.
5. Please stay on topic. "Trolling" to incite emotional responses and disrupt conversations will be deleted.
6. To understand further what is and isn't allowed and the actions we may take, please read our Terms of Service
7. To report breaches of the Terms of Service use the flag icon