S6E74: Dr. Christian Toma / Kalera - Improving the Food System & The Science of Great Greens
Vertical Farming PodcastNovember 18, 2022x
44:5441.1 MB

S6E74: Dr. Christian Toma / Kalera - Improving the Food System & The Science of Great Greens

Episode Summary

Dr. Christian Toma is the co-founder and Chief Science Officer (CSO) at Kalera, a technology-driven vertical farming company that is delivering sustainable ultra-clean, nutrient-dense produce year-round. Kalera is the world’s largest operator of vertical hydroponic farms. Today, Harry and Dr. Christian discuss the nuances of shifting from CEO to CSO, the inspiration behind the HyCube, and how Kalera is expanding its International footprint through targeted acquisitions. Dr. Christian shares his passion for engineering and plant science, what goes into building a world-class team and how he has evolved as a leader. 

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Key Takeaways

07:13 – Dr. Christian Toma joins the show to discuss his vertical farming origin story, the inspiration behind the HyCube, and how Kalera has expanded and evolved over the years 

15:23 – A passion for engineering, problem-solving and plant science 

18:34 – The inspiration to launch Kalera and the work Dr. Christian and his team are doing 

21:32 – Building a world-class, passionate team and how Dr. Christian has personally evolved as a leader 

25:56 – The impact that mentors have had on Dr. Christian’s success 

27:13 – The decision to go public and how the industry has matured recently 

30:54 – Shifting from CEO to Chief Science Officer (CSO) 

34:53 – Expanding Kalera’s International footprint and acquiring Endeavor 

37:27 – A tough question Dr. Chistian has had to ask himself recently and upcoming projects that Kalera has in the pipeline 

41:29 – What keeps Dr. Christian motivated 

42:08 – Something Dr. Christian has changed his mind about recently and a specific ask he has for his colleagues 

44:31 – Harry thanks Dr. Christian for joining the show and lets listeners know where they can go to connect with him and learn more about Kalera 

Tweetable Quotes

“Actually, that’s the whole idea with vertical farming. It makes a lot of sense to do it when you can locate your farms very close to your customers and distribution centers for major customers.” (13:36) (Dr. Christian) 

“I was always very interested in healthy food, not only the value of it, but how to improve our daily nutritional intake - starting with my own family - and then realizing there was a real need for that. And, in talking to head chefs from all of these high-end hotels, we realized there was so much desire to improve the quality of their offerings.” (19:06) (Dr. Christian) 

“I think that no matter how much technology you use, if you don’t have talented growers, the quality suffers.” (22:34) (Dr. Christian) 

“Leadership is a people business. So, yes it was also a personal journey for me going from being focused on technology, technology management, and technology development to working with people. I learned a lot from them and hopefully they learned from me as well. But yeah it’s a transition. I would say being very crisp and focused on your message so you don’t put out confusion is super important.” (23:54) (Dr. Christian) 

“Singapore is becoming known as the ‘Food Valley,’ sort of like Silicon Valley, given their challenges of being a net importer for ninety percent of their food needs.” (35:56) (Dr. Christian) 

“Something I’ve changed my mind about is that at one point I thought that maybe vertical farming could solve all the issues in the world, but no. We have to understand that we have a place in the food system. And I don’t want to say we need to be humble, but we cannot chase projects that are too unrealistic because many of these projects end up using more resources and creating more problems than we want to solve. But continuing to innovate and expand our footprint in the food industry, but doing it in a way that makes sense and doesn’t use more resources than other existing approaches or more traditional approaches.” (42:13) (Dr. Christian) 

“We know that our product is good. We know that we’re growing the product in a way that, in many aspects, is more sustainable. We are addressing some real issues in the food chain. We really need to focus on the economics.” (44:16) (Dr. Christian) 

Guest Resources

Dr. Christian Toma’s LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/ctoma2000/ 

Kalera – https://kalera.com/ 

Kalera Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/KaleraProduce/ 

Kalera Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/kaleraproduce/ 

Kalera Twitter – https://twitter.com/kaleraproduce 

Kalera LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/company/kalera/ 

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