“We’re developing a low-cost container farm as an innovative solution for continuous vegetable production. It’s a great solution due to increasing water scarcity, biotic and abiotic stress due to climate change in the country,” says Gilda Carrasco, Ph.D. Department of Horticulture at the University of Talca.
The University of Talca, located in the south-central macro-zone of Chile and a known developer of soilless crops in the country, has been awarded a technological innovation project-FIC, Maule 2021.
The R&D project is aimed at developing low-cost vertical farming modules thanks to funds from the Regional Government of Maule. According to Gilda, it would be a great addition to the Chilean ag industry to guarantee a sustainable production of safe vegetables on a continuous basis.
The solution to be developed is modular and adaptable to farm size. Next to that, it can be used in other sectors. “Through the development and validation of low-cost automatic control devices the containers won’t come at high prices,” Gilda notes.
For now, the system will provide leafy greens. Gilda says that the great advantage is the assembly of an interdisciplinary team from the areas of soilless crops, digital agriculture, engineering, food safety and agribusiness.
The project will be led by Gilda Carrasco together with an interdisciplinary group of researchers between 2022 and 2023. Together with the international consultancy of Professor Dr. Miguel Urrestarazu, University of Almeria, Spain who will help during the project. Recently, the University of Talca signed an agreement with Mexican vertical farming company Karma Verde Fresh (KVF), in collaboration with their CEO Mr. Leo Lobato who will participate as well.
The university applied to the Innovation Fund for Competitiveness of the Maule Region in Chile. Gilda explains that it’s a public financing instrument aimed at strengthening the national and regional innovation system, providing transparency, flexibility, competitive and strategic sense to the public action of the State.