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Swiss startup re-imagines food through aeroponic growing system

We are taking great care in deciding what we eat, ensuring more often that foods tick the right health, ethical and environmental boxes. Switzerland is proving fertile ground for changing the menu, from a meat substitute based on pea protein to lettuce grown without soil or pesticides. Clare O’Dea digs in. Some of the new innovations have to be tasted to be believed. Like the chicken substitute being produced by the young team behind Planted AG in Zurich, a spin-off of the Federal Institute of Technology (ETH).

Things are moving very fast for the young team behind Planted. It is just two years since cousins Bieri and Böni sat down together and sketched out a two page-summary of their scientific and business concept. Their main motivation was to do something about the unsustainability and cruelty of mass meat production. 

It’s not just the food we eat but the way it is produced that requires rethinking and new technological solutions. Around half of lettuces and herbs sold in Switzerland is grown locally. The rest is imported, mainly in the winter months. A Swiss company in western Switzerland, CombaGroup, has developed a greenhouse system for leafy greens that produces healthy plants year-round. The greens are grown in a soilless environment using 90% less water and space than conventional agriculture and no pesticides. Situated in the timeless village of Molondin with its red roof tiles, CombaGroup’s 15 employees share their working site with more traditional agriculture companies. CEO Serge Gander sees his system as an opportunity for growers.  

“The volume that can be produced with our system is staggering. Traditional soil culture will give a yield of 30 tonnes per hectare per year. With our system it is 800 tonnes.” 

Read more at Swiss Info (Clare O'Dea)

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