A vertical farming start-up has developed a tech-powered system that could create food resilience in urban areas
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Spotted: Around the world, vertical farms are taking off, offering a way to move farming indoors and increase crop production while decreasing energy expenditure. The most recent agri-tech start-up in this sector is Future Crops, an Israel-Dutch joint venture that grows crops indoors, in a unique soil substrate composition.
The first Future Crops venture is a fully automated 8,000 metre squared indoor vertical farm in Westland, the Netherlands. The facility is spread over nine stories, and is powered largely by solar energy. A range of leafy greens and herbs are grown in a soil-based substrate using an automated system which precisely tailors the environmental conditions. The system controls dozens of growth parameters, including humidity, temperature, and lighting, to create optimal conditions for each crop.
Future Crops founder Gary Grinspan compares the technology to a ‘plant whisperer’. He explains that, “Our team of agronomists are able to ‘listen’ to each plant to determine its individual needs in real time – how much ‘sleep’ versus light, the type of light, air quality, how much water, specific nutrient needs, etc. The plants ‘respond’ in their own unique language as expressed via small nuances such as changes in morphology, shape, size, and colour. Via these signals, our algorithm can be primed to provide the plants precisely what they need at each stage of their life cycle.”
One of the key differentiators of the Future Crops vertical farm is the soil-like substrate. This allows plants to benefit from soil nutrients like they would in traditional farming. Grinspan explains, “We composed a unique nutrient enriched soil-like recipe as the bed for growing all our produce to keep it close to what nature intended.”
The company joins a host of other vertical farm projects that take aim to maximise yield, improving quality and reducing food miles and resource expenditure in farming. Recent developments have included high-capacity urban growing centres, and vertical farms located in supermarket parking lots, allowing ‘food miles’ to be measured in feet.
Written By: Lisa Magloff