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Russia: Eko-kultura goes into vertical farming

Automated multilayered greenhouses is a relatively new but very popular trend, surprisingly not among the representatives of Russian agricultural companies though. IT companies are engaged in such farms' creation, which are further bought by restaurant owners and big retailers.

Mr. Aleksey Shemetov, the vice president on production of Eco-kultura, tried to find an answer to the question why vertical farming has not been embraced by Russian growers yet.

Startup creators claim that the farms allow grow 350 times more produce that the traditional greenhouses of the same acreage. With that, the expenses on water and substrate are several times lower. Presumably, these numbers impressed the investors so much that they entrusted 200 million dollars to the startup, a record setting amount for the agricultural sphere. With that, the author of the innovative technology whose previous working experience is pure related to telecom has never been engaged in growing before.

Mr. Aleksey Shemetov acknowledged the technology as a perspective one, however at the moment it should be considered for the production of niche vegetables and greenery: herbs, lettuce and microgreens. It might be challenging for mass production vegetables (tomatoes and cucumber) grown in vertical farms to compete with regular greenhouse produce in price as the latter has already been subject to a maximum optimization of agricultural technologies.

Russian major greenhouse complexes and farms hold back on new greenhouse format implementation. Mr. Aleksey Shemetov shared that Eco-kultura has not been considering vertical farming as a perspective sphere of development. The main issue is high energy cost of such production as each level requires supplemental lighting.

Apart from increased expenses on electricity, there is another reason for low profitability of vertical farms: lack of specialists capable of enabling maximum productivity of such complexes. Vice-president on production shared his opinion that in several years there will be enough qualified associates to meet the demand of the market. Then the time will come to implement vertical farming on a larger scale.


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