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Hybrid conference on 1 October 2021, 12:00 - 16:00 CET (NL)

Scaling up plant production in vertical farms

One of VF's advantages often mentioned is that crops can be produced anywhere around the globe, irrespective of the local growing conditions. Once the perfect indoor "growing recipe" is found for a specific crop, this recipe can potentially be copied anywhere. Practical experience however shows that reality is more complex. One and the same growing recipe set in different technical systems of different scales can create very different crops results.

This is due to the impact the technical installation has on the plant and because in a VF the crop strongly influences its own growing environment creating a microclimate in between the crop, which is different from the macroclimate, which is controlled at room level. This interaction between the crop and the technical installation is unique for each VF design, which makes scaling up results from an R&D scale to a large commercial scale more complex than simply 1-to-1 copying the growing setpoints of the climate computer. To enable scale-up of R&D results, the growing conditions directly around the crop and the plant response itself to these conditions should be monitored.

This presentation will dive into this topic on the interaction between the technical design and the plant itself and share results of the applied experimental trials that are performed at the Vertical Farming Research facility in the Delphy Improvement Centre. 

Lisanne Meulendijks, specialist Vertical Farming at Delphy, explains what drives her when doing research with vertical farming.

"I'm excited about translating R&D results on VF cultivation knowledge to commercial-scale Vertical Farms. Besides this being a technical challenge, which includes an understanding of plant sciences, physics, Thermo/fluid dynamics, etc. It is also strongly about translating scientific knowledge and understanding to practical situations and language. I love that, with the work we do in our Delphy Improvement Centre, we can form this bridge between different disciplines and help the industry further. This gives me loads of energy." 

Why should the delegate attend your presentation?
"In this presentation, you will learn how to look at VF crop production in a holistic way, taking into account both the plant and the technical aspects of the growing environment it is in. For anyone growing crops in a complete indoor environment, it is crucial to take both these factors into account." 

What emerging technologies/trends do you see as having the greatest potential in the short and long run?
"Given that so much is still unknown about the interaction between the crop and its technical installation, I see huge potential in the development of crop monitoring systems that can sense the growing conditions directly around the crop and relate these to the plant response. This requires the development of plant monitoring sensors that are able to measure at the micro-level." 

What kind of impact do you expect them to have?
"Once we work towards such monitoring systems at crop level rather than at room level, I believe we can start defining optimal "growing recipes" at this micro-scale, which then indeed enables that option of globally applying these optimal recipes."

What are the barriers that might stand in the way?
"Vertical Farming is an industry that requires exchange of knowledge between numerous fields of expertise: plant science, climate engineering, technical construction, sensor hardware and software development, data science, etc., and many more fields to add to this list. To optimize production inside a farm, all these different disciplines need to be optimized together, which requires, first of all, an ecosystem in which knowledge exchange between these different fields is encourages. Furthermore, it also requires an effort from experts across the different fields to understand one another and work interdisciplinary. I think both these aspects are barriers that need to be taken as an industry as a whole." 

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