For years, David van Steenkiste was a herbalist at star restaurant Hertog Jan, as well as managing herbal company Herbas. David has now sold his company and started Plant-T, a company that markets plant towers. “A plant tower is actually a miniature vertical farm. You can grow herbs, flowers, vegetables and fruit with the help of these towers, ”says David.
“We have two models available: a 1.50 meter tower with room for 20 plants and one 2.10 meter with room for 36 plants. The small model is particularly popular with private individuals who want to grow vegetables or herbs in their garden or on their roof terrace. There is a demand for the big towers from chefs, schools, prisons, amusement parks, hospitals, supermarkets, wholesalers in fruit and vegetables, really anyone you can think of,” laughs David. “Anyone can use it and it can be used both indoors and outdoors. And because they are not filled with earth, the towers weigh nothing, which makes them very easy to move.”
The growing process
“To start growing, seeds are placed in a small block of natural stone fiber for a groundless germination process. When seedlings are ready, we put them in the growing cavities of the tower so that the roots of the plants can grow in the tower. We mix the reservoir with ionic mineral nutrient solution. A submersible pump is placed in the reservoir to blow the nutrient solution through the center of the culture pots, all the way to the top of the tower. When the nutrient solution reaches the top, it is passed through a special device, causing it to drizzle evenly back to the bottom reservoir,” explains David.
The towers in a restaurant garden
“While the liquid mixture is rinsed through to nourish the roots of the plants, the mineral solution is oxygenated by gravity, creating favorable conditions for nutrient absorption,” continues David. “Apart from using up to 95% less water than other conventional cultivation methods, vertical cultivation saves space because between 250,000 and 500,000 plants can be grown per hectare.”
Mushrooms and chicory too
In addition to herbs, edible flowers, fruit and vegetables, David has also done tests with mushrooms. “We put the plant tower in a dark cellar and we managed to grow mushrooms and chicory. It is a very beautiful, but also a future-proof system. The earth is heating up, it is also getting drier and the availability of water is scarce. The price of agricultural land is also rising. See, the plant towers aren't going to be the big solution to these problems, but they are definitely doing their part. With this system you can grow your own product, in limited space. It couldn't be easier, can it? "