“I was inspired by what I saw myself in the Amazon, how orchids grow in a natural dry-mist, and I wanted to apply that to food,” says Laurens Trebes, Founder and CEO of UrbanPonics. “I found the way horticulture is going now, with tasteless products that are pumped full of water, shocking, and I wanted to change this through a different method of cultivation and give healthier nutrition to the plants, thus making them healthier for us as well.”
Urban Ponics is a Dutch company supplying smart tech systems for vertical horticulture in which crops grow in PODs (growing towers), lava buckets, and other mediums - apart from soil. In addition, the focus is on a special plant food called NACAR that enables full-spectrum farming. The company provides turn-key projects and plant food, and metabolism enhancers.
Laurens Trebes, at the right
The company sells the products with the highest price guarantee because of, among other things, the Contronic dry misting solution and the NACAR plant nutrition. Because of that combination, the plants contain many more phytonutrients (such as vitamins) than plants grown only with NPK.
Laurens adds, “It sounds strange, this highest price guarantee, but a six-month test at Jumbo (a Dutch supermarket chain) showed that eventually, a group of customers arose that not only wanted organic - which is great for the climate and environment - but also wants to eat products that are notoriously healthier.”
Besides an increase in quality and weight, Contronics' dry misting technology offers additional advantages, such as less spoilage - so more to sell - mist eliminates the need for packaging, and the system contributes to sustainability by reducing waste, energy consumption, and CO2.
Laurens started introducing a new horticulture concept, full-spectrum farming, which is soilless growing. The crops are hanging in a fine mist that distributes mixed nutrients the plants need to grow.
In Urban Ponics’ systems, all water and fertilizers are completely re-used. The systems can be placed in all climates without a high CO2 load. Per column, only 0.003kWh is needed. Thanks to the NACAR plant nutrition, the plants have a strong immune system. The growing solutions are cheap and low cost, and maintenance is quite limited and similar to pump systems.
“We’re using Contronics' dry mist in combination with other, slightly coarser atomizers. The unique thing about dry-mist is that the trace elements are very well absorbed. You can see this in the many hair roots that the plants develop as an adaptation to not growing in the ground. If the same plants grew in the ground, the root system would look very different and many chemicals would be needed,” Laurens noted.
Dry fog benefits
"Real farmers with a heart for the product do not just focus on saving money," explains Laurens. "Supermarket and growers associations can produce demonstrably healthier products in a sustainable way with our systems and plant nutrition. Mono-cultivation becomes redundant, and on 1 hectare, leafy vegetables, herbs, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and more can be grown simultaneously with just one fertilizer formula."
The complete assortment can be offered directly to local retailers (reduction of food miles) and without the intervention of growers associations. The cost savings and extra earnings go to the farmer in the first place, and then to the retailers. “Moreover, it is better for the farmers because they do not have to use pesticides and they save on their energy bill.”
“The Full Spectrum Farming concept, where dry-mist is the carrier of our plant nutrient NACAR, ensures that plants receive the full spectrum of 90+ minerals and trace elements. The NPK formulas are limited to about 10 minerals and trace elements. This makes the plants strong and stress-resistant, allowing lettuce to be grown even in the desert, in the tropics, or on the steppe,” Laurens claims.