“As a manufacturer, we can deliver a total solution, so buyers only have to deal with us. We are building a system around a customer’s request,” says Cecilia Ku, General Manager at Delta Singapore. “Let’s say a farmer wants to grow a head of lettuce that weighs 100 grams - we will build the system accordingly. Choosing from this range of products, we’re removing the dependency on agronomists.”
Delta Singapore, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Delta Electronics, Inc., is a global provider of switching power supplies and thermal management products with a thriving portfolio of smart energy-saving systems and solutions in the fields of industrial automation, building automation, telecom power, data center infrastructure, EV charging, renewable energy, energy storage, and display to nurture the development of smart manufacturing and sustainable cities.
Cecilia notes that, since Delta is a manufacturer, they can easily adapt to automation as they do a lot of infrastructure like data centers, EV charging stations, and more.
Building around the customer's request
Delta supplies scalable indoor farming solutions that allow farmers to grow modular anywhere. The system allows segregating different lighting modules in production lines to cut costs and increase efficiency. Up until now, around 46 different vegetables can be grown within the system: lettuces like butterhead, red leaf lettuce, crucifers like Chinese kale, arugula, radish, herbs like basil, green mint, dill, and more.
Delta is currently in the works with R&D on cherry tomatoes, strawberries, and other berries. On average, it takes around six months to investigate potential crops. Cecilia gives away that Delta spends a severe amount of time on these projects as they want to perfect the recipe in order to mass-produce them before introducing the products to customers.
Setting up the right model to obtain proper ROI
“When setting up a business case, we’ll talk with the farmers to see what they want to achieve. Then we’re creating a sustainable business model with them for the sake of having an effective ROI. It doesn’t, therefore, always necessarily mean that automation is needed, because it doesn’t always add up to the business case,” Cecilia shares.
That is why Delta would suggest one production line in the beginning, which allows farmers to scale up any time. There has to be a balance between technology and ROI. Besides that, crop growth plan is made whereas various crops can be cultivated at once to avoid losing growing surface. When mixing and matching different plants, the ROI will become acceptable for growers, explains Cecilia.
Delta's container farm
Recently, Delta introduced a demo container farm located in Singapore which is used to educate and intrigue people on this farming method. Once bystanders can see the quality, the growing process, and so on, they are more welcoming to the concept. Many said to be hesitant about automated vegetable growing solutions.
“However, we’re glad we have traction and see that perspectives are changing towards vertical farming. It’s a great way to demonstrate to society and the government how much potential our solutions have. In the very near future, we should see it going.” Besides the demo farm, the company is pushing marketing campaigns to educate and work with ecosystem partners to expand the market.
Countries such as the UAE, Singapore, and China have shown great interest in Delta’s system, as, especially after Covid, the need for local produce increased. Food treaties are not of much value anymore, since products can barely be exported abroad
China has shown interest in building aquaculture facilities to ensure a stable fish supply. Recently, the company received a request from Myanmar. They have shown interest in container farms to feed remote villages that lack fresh food supply.
Making a change
In 2011, Eugene Cheong heard about the global food shortage and was set to make a change on his end. Therefore, he wanted to push the movement by providing a solution that helps remedy the food crisis globally. Therefore, he set his sight on vertical farming. 90% of the components and solutions put into the farm R&D were (and still are) manufactured by Delta.
In the first few years, Delta wanted to make production more efficient and the outcomes more effective. Cecilia explains that they soon realized that automation would increase efficiency significantly, allowing Delta to grow beautiful vegetables. After two to three years, a plant scientist joined the team who helped to change their philosophy of farming.