Isabel Molitor is the woman behind Hamburg-based Farmers Cut, the first indoor vertical farm. Read on how she got there
After stops on her professional career path that included holding positions in marketing in New York and brand strategy in Munich, 28-year-old Isabel Molitor is now working on an ambitious project: Farmers Cut in Hamburg. Here she explains how it happened and what it’s all about:
I first got excited about the idea for Farmers Cut shortly after the new year in 2015. I was living in New York City at the time and had come back to Germany over Christmas. My father and I met in Munich along with Mark Korzilius, a long-term friend and today the co-founder of the company. He spoke to us enthusiastically about a new concept, indoor vertical farming – this technology enables us to cultivate locally in cities year-round, achieve short and direct distribution channels, and use 80% less water and 60% less fertilizer than in traditional farming.
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The concept captivated me immediately as I was already following the development of next generation farming in the USA – especially in New York – and knew what an incredibly fascinating topic it is: the link between technology, urbanization, and nutrition. All areas that carry great meaning for all of us.
Back in New York, I went to various AgTech events and Food + Tech Connect meet-ups, where food and food tech startups like Edenworks and Aerofarms were introduced. So began my exchange with founders and industry experts on the scene. Trips to Tokyo and Holland with Mark followed. It was there that we met the pioneer of operative indoor vertical farming for the first time. Professor Toyoki Kozai, who I visited in Tokyo in 2015, opened the door to indoor vertical farming for me with his book Plant Factory. Among ourselves, we call him the “Pope of Indoor Farming.” And we’re continuously expanding our knowledge through daily exchanges with our technical partners and plant biologists from Holland, Finland, and Japan.
Professionally my father has always been, still is, and will probably always be my mentor. He has shaped and supported Farmers Cut with his technical and entrepreneurial mindset. He is a true artist when it comes to motivation, as well as a critical realist.
In a creative and visionary sense, Mark is also a kind of mentor to me. Especially his fighting spirit, to give everything and leave no stone unturned, is something that leaves an impression on me daily.
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What I especially enjoy about my job is that we have to meet new challenges every day. That makes for a dynamic and exciting environment and requires a certain flexibility when it comes to trying things out and pushing things forward. It’s constantly a case of learning by doing. Ultimately it’s all about finding solutions. Failure and mistakes are part of the process. I’m learning every day. And accordingly, the biggest challenge for me is: patience, patience, patience.
The biggest success to date was when we placed our greens in Tim Mälzer’s restaurant Die Gute Botschaft and guests helped themselves at the salad bar. The moment they started raving about the great and diverse flavors is something I won’t soon forget.
Our target group is relatively broad: For many, the topic of diet and nutrition has become a sort of ersatz religion these days. The Millennials most of all. They pay attention to where and how their food is produced and what nutrients they take into their bodies. We believe that our concept speaks to very different groups, from foodies to the health conscious all the way to techies who are fascinated by our farming technology.
My hope for the future? To be represented by 20 farms around the world! We want to change the current chain of food supply into something more sustainable and develop a mindset in city dwellers that goes beyond organic: pesticide-free, local, diverse!
Julia co-founded one of the first fashion blogs in Germany in 2007 and became a freelance consultant for digital strategies after publishing her first book in 2010. After an eventful four years with Condé Nast working mainly in the digital department of Vogue Germany, she decided to launch her own online magazine with her dream partner, Veronika Heilbrunner. She is based in Berlin and loves to read books.
Updates about her next professional steps can be found at https://www.linkedin.com/in/juliaknolle/.