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“Reducing microgreen growth from 21 to 14 days is a real benefit of vertical farming”

“The biggest threat at the moment is to how to make the vertical farm profitable. In short, the investment cost to start up a vertical farm is high and when the cultivation starts the energy usage costs are high,” says Satu Karjalainen, agronomist with lighting supplier Valoya. Yet, there’s very good news for the industry as well. “This can be compensated with high cultivation area and higher yields than from traditional cultivation applications like greenhouses.”

“In a vertical farm/plant factory the environmental conditions can be kept stable and with a photobiological LED lighting you can enhance the cultivation cycles per year as you have constant growing conditions”, Satu explains. “So I would say that this is a real benefit when you can reduce microgreen growth cycle from 21 to 14 days. Otherwise, the LED lighting can be used the same way as other traditional horticultural lighting in different setups, whether they are soil-based, hydroponic, aquaponic or aeroponic systems.”

Satu has been Valoya’s Research Coordinator for many years. Throughout the years, the company has partnered with many scientists and cultivators to deliver research-based LED grow lights that power growth. “The advantage of low wattage horticultural LED lighting is that you can bring the luminaires really close (approx. 5-10 cm) above the full-grown plant canopy without the risk of causing heat or light shock damage to the plants. This is because LEDs have a heat sink above them so the heat is not directed towards the plant as it with for example with fluorescent tubes”, she says. Valoya developed several low-wattage LED luminaires for vertical appliances specifically. “Whether it is 28W or 35W, they both can be really close to the plants and in addition, you can also have additional layers in vertical racks.”

In addition to developments like these, Satu sees a bright future for the VF market as more and more stakeholders are taking interest in the market development. “For example, seed breeding companies have nowadays programs to develop plant varieties that can benefit the most from these pest-free and environmentally stable conditions and concentrate on high yield/biomass production.”

Also, the consumers will benefit, she says, in getting fresh and clean high-quality produce almost straight from the farmer as the logistic chain is shorter. “Vertical farms are usually located in the city or nearby. The pandemic situation has clearly shown us how beneficial it is for the consumer to have their produce cultivated locally as long logistical chains can be more easily disrupted.”

“Experimenting with new cultivation techniques and plant varieties is also an opportunity for the grower as plant species for which cultivation in field conditions has been difficult can be more easily cultivated indoors. For sure the consumer also benefits from having more variety in vegetable/fruit selection in the local supermarket.“

For more information:
Melkonkatu 26, 00210 Helsinki, Finland
+358 10 2350 300
[email protected]