Hurray for capitalism

Published 10:23 am Friday, December 20, 2019

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In the last several years, we have heard stories about how young people don’t think that capitalism is working; that maybe socialism would be better for America. We have seen demonstrations and tent encampments protesting Wall Street in many cities including Richmond.

If you want to see the value of capitalism and the free market system, one needs to look no further than Pittsylvania County. Last week, AeroFarms announced that they were going to build the largest vertical farm in the world in Ringgold. AeroFarms is a highly innovative company that has been recognized by Time magazine as a world leader in innovation. That innovation would not be occurring if the capitalist market did not see the opportunity for investors to earn profits by investing in the company.


The company grows small greens that are most often used in salads. You find their, or their competitor’s product in most supermarkets in 4×8 inch clear plastic packages. They didn’t invent the product or that method of marketing and packaging, but rather they looked at others and decided they could make a better value product.

Their competition is grown in fields located in Mexico, Arizona and California. In the last decade, there have been scares of bacteria infected crops from fields caused by poor sanitary conditions from time to time. AeroFarms decided that they could grow a safer product if they grew their products indoors where they can have better control of hygiene. At the same time, instead of just growing several crops a year, by controlling indoor conditions they could grow crops year around. They provide the plants what they need to grow well, when they need it. They maintain the best temperature levels, provide special lighting that enhances growth, and they provide the correct level of moisture needed. Doing this, they are able to use 95% less water and be 390 times more efficient than field grown crops.


Because the cost of land and construction can be very expensive as well as maintaining the correct temperature, Aerofarms has chosen to build a taller building that can handle 14 levels of plants at the same time. They are modeling Ringgold after their facility in New Jersey. The difference is that this facility will be three times larger than the New Jersey facility.


The company focuses and invests in continuing research to stay ahead of the market. When they first started growing plants, it was taking them 20 days to grow them to the optimum size. After continued research, they now have reduced that time to 13 days. At the same time, they have better learned what the consumer finds they like best. For example, young kale sales have been bolstered by finding a variety that has a taste that children like better.


Without a profit motive, the individuals that started the company would have stayed in the jobs that they held instead of taking the risk of a startup business. Without investors and lenders who saw their vision, they would not have been able to move their ideas to the marketplace or to invest another $41 million in Ringgold and employ the expected 90 employees in Pittsylvania County.

Compare this and other great businesses that employ our citizens to what occurs in the public sector. Without a motive of profit, most government services are provided in a fashion as they were in years past. Imagine what would happen if we allowed our government services to use the power of reward in developing new innovations.


Some are concerned that I was unable to attend county Board of Supervisors meetings that voted on sanctuary status. I wish I could have, but meetings in Richmond made it impossible. I had no doubt that the Boards would act in the interest of the people and each has. Others have been concerned that I think that there are those in Richmond who would infringe on our rights. Trust me, there are those who would!

Frank Ruff Jr. represents Charlotte in the state Senate. His email address is Sen.Ruff@