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Babylon Micro-Farms co-founders made Forbes' '30 Under 30' list

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Two co-founders for a Richmond-based company offering environmentally friendly indoor farming technologies and techniques have just been named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list in the category of Social Impact.

Graham Smith and Alexander Olesen founded Babylon Micro-Farms in 2017 while they were students at the University of Virginia as part of a project to provide low-cost micro-farming for food-insecure refugees. The company makes indoor farming units that can be remotely controlled to grow herbs, vegetables and salad greens.

“I am honored to be included in this year’s Forbes 30 Under 30 list alongside my co-founder,” Olesen said in a statement. “We’ve been building Babylon Micro-Farms together for nearly 6 years. It’s fantastic to see our work recognized among such an esteemed group of people doing their part to build a more sustainable future.”

“None of this would have been possible without a fantastic team working tirelessly to make Babylon Micro-Farms a reality,” Smith said.

The company relocated from Charlottesville to a newly renovated 7,700-square-foot office on Carlton Street in Richmond’s Scott’s Addition in 2021. The building serves as Babylon’s headquarters and as its research and development facility.

The company calls its product the “easiest to use hydroponic micro-farm” that allows for the year-round growth of fresh produce. It couples its clear glass growing cases with a guided growing app that uses the sensors inside the case to monitor conditions and make adjustments.

According to Forbes, Babylon’s vertical micro farms allow users to grow vegetables like lettuces two to three times faster while using 90% less water than outdoor farming.

Forbes also said the company operates in 30 states with high-profile clients like IKEA, LinkedIn and Neiman Marcus. Its primary customer bases are in areas like corporate dining, student dining, event and hospitality venues and senior living communities.

The company launched a new product called “the Galleri” earlier this year. The all-new micro-farm has an improved sensor array, easy-to-clean tray and water control system powered by the company’s new BabylonIQ, its platform designed to operate decentralized, automated micro-farms. The company said users of a Galleri can expect to be alerted of any issues with their farms and have them fixed remotely ahead of time.

Babylon Micro-Farms received a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation in 2021 for continued development of BabylonIQ.

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Forbes honored another Richmond business owner for 2023’s 30 Under 30 list. Emily Warden’s jewelry company Warden Designs was recognized in the category of Art & Style. Her store at the intersection of Strawberry Avenue and Hanover Avenue in Richmond makes small batches of handcrafted jewelry.

According to Forbes, Warden first discovered her love of metalsmithing in college and translated it into her current business. The business magazine also said Warden Designs is on track for $2 million in revenue this year, and that it prioritizes traceability and storytelling.

Warden is listed as a graduate of James Madison University.

sjones1@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6911

Twitter: @SeanJones_RTD

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