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Research on algae-based microbiome biostimulation in vertical farms

Vertical farming (VF) is a potential solution for the production of high-quality, accessible, and climate-friendly nutrition for growing urban populations. However, to realize VF’s potential as a sustainable food source, innovative technologies are required to ensure that VF can be industrialized on a massive scale and extended beyond leafy greens and fruits into the production of food staples or row crops.

A major obstacle to the economic and environmental sustainability of VF is the lighting energy consumed. While technological advances have improved the energy efficiency of VF lighting systems, there has been insufficient research into biostimulation as an approach to reduce energy needs. We conducted a controlled trial to investigate the application of a phycocyanin-rich Spirulina extract (PRSE) as a biostimulant in hydroponically grown, vertically farmed lettuce (Lactuca sativa and Salanova). PRSE application reduced the time from seeding to harvest by 6 days, increased yield by 12.5%, and improved quality including color, taste, texture, antioxidant flavonoid levels, and shelf life.

Metagenomic analysis of the microbial community of the nutrient solution indicated that PRSE increased the overall bacterial diversity including raising the abundance of Actinobacteria and Firmicutes and reducing the abundance of potentially pathogenic bacteria. This preliminary study demonstrates that microalgae-derived biostimulants may play an important role in improving the economic and environmental sustainability of VF.

Read the complete research at

Lerer, L.; Varia, J.; Kamaleson, C. Growth, Yield, Quality and Microbial Diversity in Hydroponic Vertical Farming – Effect of Phycocyanin-Rich Spirulina Extract. Preprints 2020, 2020110354 

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