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Women in Skilled Trades

How Crop One Is Looking to Do More With Less for Agriculture

Photo: Courtesy of Tim Mossholder

Sonia Lo has been a successful investor and director of content at Google, lived in 16 countries, speaks seven languages, and served in many leadership roles. Now she’s the CEO of the innovative, globally controlled environment agriculture (CEA) farming company Crop One. 

We spoke with Lo about her journey to Crop One and how she plans to empower sustainable agriculture to deliver fresh and local foods to parts of the world where the concept was once inconceivable.

Sonia Lo

CEO, Crop One

How did you become the CEO of a CEA farming company? 

Looking back, nearly all my decisions stem from intellectual curiosity and a dedication to giving back. My parents were both journalists, then Korean diplomats, so woven into our family culture was the idea that community is global and serving in that community was a family value. 

Through this lens, I pursued an education at Stanford, then Harvard, and a career in finance and technology. It was also in this context that I trained and worked as a charity chef in London — with a deep focus on food as medicine — earned a third-degree black belt in taekwondo, and relished in becoming the mother of two in my 40s.

These guiding principles led me to make bold choices and brought me to the helm of Crop One: my international intersection between food, health, and finance.

What makes Crop One different from other CEA farming companies? 

Crop One builds high-density/high-yield farms that are 100 percent controlled and contained. Early on, our team of plant scientists, software developers, and engineers considered growth optimization, energy efficiency, and scalability. The outcome was a modular system (“Mod”) with software-enabled control in segmented, multiple air-sealed rooms ranging in sizes up to 10,000 sq. ft.

We easily scale as a 100-ton farm using the same form factor as a 1-ton farm. Our farms use land 400 times more effectively and consume 95-99 percent less water than outdoor farms. These attributes earned us a joint venture with Emirates Flight Catering after a global bid to build the world’s largest vertical farm in Dubai. 

The modular growing units ensure a safe, chemical-free farm — no pesticides, herbicides, or unpurified water (no heavy metals). We are the only Kosher-certified indoor greens producer in the world. 

What can CEA do for farming? 

There is a real need to rejuvenate farming and this industry introduces a new kind of farmer. CEA offers careers without requiring a technical or farming background. 

Also, we can grow fresh, local, nutritious foods in regions where it was once inconceivable. We can build in urban areas or parts where climate challenges traditional farming. CEA gives access to local, fresh food with a longer shelf life and less food waste. 

What’s your vision for Crop One?

My vision is for large-scale sustainability and carbon neutrality. We aim to raise the bar for sustainable agriculture, especially in controlled environments. 

Crop One technology and infrastructure are built to recognize economic growth with fewer resources, less land, and efficient energy use. Our plant and nutritional science depend on thoughtful control of air and water, and are motivated by food resilience and human health. Crop One’s executive decisions focus on innovation and training for the future to develop global employment opportunities in diverse communities. We have developed a sustainable model that aligns with the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

In the simplest terms, our vision is to grow enormous amounts of food on a tiny amount of land, with a tiny amount of water, for as many people as possible. We are driven to make local global.

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