"The products that we develop are all what we refer to as 'plug and play.' It's very similar to a coffee pot – you plug it into a wall, add water and a bit of nutrients, and you've got food growing at a rapid pace," explains O'Connor, the company's CEO.
Mobile Farming Systems' equipment ranges from the Veg Buddy, a small structure perfect for growing on a patio or balcony, to the company's flagship product, the 40-foot Mobile Grow Trailer. Outfitted with grow lights and shelves full of trays for planting, the trailer can produce some 20,000 heads of lettuce annually. One client wants to purchase trailers to grow kosher fruits and vegetables in the eastern United States and as far away as Israel. Other clients are interested in providing communities with fresh produce during snowy winters. And, because it can be easily transported by shipping container or towed behind a truck, the Mobile Grow Trailer also shows promise in disaster recovery efforts and hunger relief.
Major marketing efforts are set to kick off in the spring of 2012, and O'Connor is also in the process of moving his manufacturing and fulfillment operations to the Coachella Valley from various western United States locations. His team made that decision after working with the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership (CVEP), a Palm Springs-based organization that educates workers, assists start-ups and attracts new companies to the area. The nonprofit also hosts one of 12 California Innovation Hub (iHub) sites, each designed to foster clean technology ventures.
CVEP is trying to be a "one-stop shop for businesses in the community," says its Chief Operating Officer Wesley Ahlgren, including maintaining "incubator space for six emerging entrepreneurs who are invited to work on site, taking advantage of training, mentoring, and networking opportunities, for up to three years each." "We look at whether a company will create jobs, lease space, hire people...if they're going to do that, they are a good client for us. It's all about job creation and being part of the community," Ahlgren says.
More established business owners, such as O'Connor, can also capitalize on CVEP's support and connections while maintaining offices elsewhere. "CVEP has helped us a lot, and we wouldn't be where we are without them," O'Connor says.
CVEP is housed in the Rabobank Regional Business Center (Center), a facility completed with the help of Rabobank, N.A.'s $250,000 capital investment. "Rabobank is a leader. The bank is on the cutting edge of economic growth in our region," says Ahlgren. "They not only wrote the check [for the Center], but are also very engaged on a daily basis with everything going on here." That engagement allows CVEP team members to better support entrepreneurs like O'Connor. O'Connor concurred, saying "They are legitimately going out and trying to bring businesses to the valley. They're great, great partners."