"After extensive research, we concluded that the industry has much potential to produce at a commercial scale," says Maarten Vandecruys, founder and CTO at Urban Crop Solutions (UCS).
"Also, economically in terms of producing with a good ROI (Return On Investment). There are four drivers needed for successful ROI which we can split into four categories. “Namely, net yield, investment cost, labor- and electricity cost, and end-to-end support.”
Therefore, the first step in UCS’s customer journey is to establish the feasibility of a project prior to proceeding with a sale. This is done through the (free) feasibility calculator, where projects are assessed based on product sales prices, product volumes, electricity cost, and labor cost.
The rationale for the ModuleX comes from a long journey of research to find the most suitable model for either beginner, but also existing farmers. The ModuleX allows businesses to begin at a reasonable size and scale up quickly based on their business needs. This is partially enabled through the single grow module that can be upgraded to endless configurations. Therefore, farms can easily be scaled up without having a risk of business interruption.
ModuleX front view
Maarten explains that contact ’doesn’t end at delivery, but there’s ongoing support throughout their operations. UCS offers technical support, mechanical maintenance and servicing. As well as biological trials for existing and new customers.
Every grow module is housed within a 40ft (12,1m) insulated container with two BenchCarousels, 32 growing benches each. This allows for growing on 925sq. ft. (86m2) which adds 25% more than standard labs. Benches are brought to the farmer within 90 seconds. “This means that farmers can produce the following on a monthly basis: 425kg of basil, 455kg of lettuce, 690kg of microgreens.”
The crop-to-operator is computerized and rotates automatically to ensure homogenous LED exposure and airflow for all benches. Maarten explains that irrigation is based on the needs of plants.
A view on the inside
The ModuleX can be adjusted to any preference from irrigation, products, and lighting to size. It can be easily doubled or tripled by size to meet the farmer’s needs. Lights are designed from a plant perspective, so specific needs are fulfilled to ensure the best crop growing condition. Maarten explains that the ModuleX is a great starting point for farming which can be upgraded into any preference.
The independent climate zones and nutrient systems allow for flexibility with crop types. Customers can mix and match the settings of each grow module to grow different crops, based on the needs of their customers and the market. “The ModuleX has the ability to respond to price point changes in the market, which is very important when starting a first facility, for instance,” he notes.
The most innovative feature of ModuleX, according to Maarten, would be the climate system which has unique air conditioning and air humidification features. Double heating pumps allow for heat removal when temperatures rise. However, at the same time, excessive heat is used to dehumidify the cultivation space.
In the past, a lot of energy was needed to dehumidify a growing room with about 100kWh per day. Now, it can be done at 30 kWh per day because of the breakthrough system. “We’ve linked it with a machine learning algorithm, which adapts itself constantly to the needs of the plants and minimizes the electrical consumption of the climate system,” he adds.
For more information:
Urban Crop Solutions
Grote Heerweg 67, 8791 Beveren-Leie (Waregem), Belgium
800 Brickell Avenue 1100 Suite, Miami (FL 33131), USA
+32 56 96 03 06