Totally Controlled Environment Agriculture.
Originally most edible crops are grown outside. However there is a trends that a lot of fresh produce is grown in more controlled environments like greenhouses. Usually natural sunlight is still used to grow such crops but….There is an alternative! With current LED developments, sophisticated climate control systems and smart logistics, it is possible to grow high quality vegetables without daylight,…. Indoor Growing in a Vertical Farm.
For almost 50 years VEK is active in the greenhouse industry supporting growers and greenhouse construction companies with knowledge and engineering services. Our company is following the latest technology and VEK believes this is a new business opportunity for its customers and therefore invested in the know how on this topic to be a trustworthy advisor in this new field of (food) production.
We are ready to support our customer from feasibility study to concept design and from business model to project execution.
Many people have stories about vertical farming that happened decades ago. And that’s true! However in the last ten years we have seen major developments in the industry which increased the adoption of this highly efficient and operational performance of indoor farms.
The introduction of better the better efficiency of LED lighting has significantly changed the market dynamics. With the use of LED lighting the energy consumption is reduced significantly and the heat generation in between the growing layers is less. Both crucial points to improve the effectiveness of indoor farming systems. Although major steps have been made in the last years on the lighting aspect more is yet to come. The endless combinations of light spectrum, light intensity and lighting hours will create R&D opportunities for the coming decades.
Lighting is an important aspect however a successful indoor farm will prove itself when the complete system is in balance. Next to lighting of course the climate control system is of major importance to maintain the right temperature and relative humidity levels for the crops to grow well. Important with this part of the technology to map the heat load and the evaporation of the plants and design the airflow and air treatment system accordingly to secure the heat but also the humidity is take out from the growing cell.
Once managing the airflow and with that the evaporation of the plants we need to secure that the plant will uptake new irrigation water and nutrients. Water circulation, maintaining the right EC and PH levels in combination with the right oxygen levels in the irrigation water.
With an indoor farm plants are moving through the cell and the growing facility. Smart logistics and a good site and procedure planning is important to secure handling processes can be executed efficiently.
Of course technology is key in an indoor farm but the right selection of seeds and growing medium has a significant effect on the performance.
Seed is a very interesting topic as currently indoor farmers are using regular seed varieties that in most cases are breed for greenhouse applications with sunlight. Recently we see more and more breeders focusing on the development of specific indoor farming seed varieties that are better resistant to high temperatures and higher RV levels, but also increase production. Once these new varieties will be ready we expect a further increase of yield up to 50% which has a significant positive effect on the profitability of indoor farms.
In terms of growing media we see new entrants but also established companies focusing on new substrate varieties now the indoor farming market shows more potential.
At VEK we clearly understand the different stakeholders within the indoor farming market and we believe we can be of support to all of them.
First of all there are project owners, entrepreneurs that see the potential of indoor farming and believe that they can serve a market with the produce coming from an indoor farm.
We see a wide range of people getting into this business and more interestingly with a broad background before starting a farm. From banker to grower and from real estate to technical expert. All of these customer will need specific guidance which VEK is able to give.
Secondly there are the (technical) suppliers in this industry that in some cases need guidance on how to position there solution. How to be active in this industry and how to be involved in the key projects that are executed around the globe.
Investors are increasingly finding their way to projects and larger technology providers. At the one hand investments are very substantial but the industry is growing rapidly and project are well backed up by predictable production year round as well as offtake contracts with retailers.
Also retailers start to see the added value and of course see a positive feedback from the end consumers choosing for produce coming from an indoor farm. Shorter supply chains are being created by having dedicated growing area near or within the distribution centers of larger retailers. This trend could be seen globally and clearly indicates the hype has been transferred into a global trend with all related possibilities.