“I look at vertical farming and closed greenhouses as the way forward of a huge opportunity for Finland and the world to save a lot of carbon dioxide,” says Robert Jordas, owner of Robbe’s Little Garden.
Robbe’s Little Garden is a Finnish greenhouse construction company specializing in hybrid greenhouse-vertical farming solutions, its first hybrid farm having been built in 2015 and including 500-square meters of growing space. Two years later, Robbe’s Little Garden built a four-layered vertical farm with a footprint of 4,400 square meters.
Now, the company is working on its largest hybrid farm to date, which will be built in 2022 and span 11,000 square meters. This build is expected to be one of three construction phases, with each phase covering 11,000 square meters for a total of 33,000 square meters.
The design of the vertical farm
Ready in 2022
The hybrid farm will be built near Helsinki in southern Finland and should be finished in 2022, although regulatory challenges and supply chain challenges are forcing the team to remain flexible. Soon after its completion, the farm will produce arugula, spinach and baby leaf greens to reduce Finland’s reliance on field-grown products imported from southern Europe.
Although the company has ties to the restaurant and hospitality industry, Robbe’s Little Garden is focusing on retail markets to ensure stable supply and demand, especially as pandemic restrictions have effectively limited the food service sector.
The hybrid system has a polycarbonate roof. However, it's a completely controlled environment that will allow Robbe’s Little Garden to fully adapt to Finland drastic seasonal variations. The system will also be equipped with 500 kW of solar panels to power the farm’s LED lighting and cooling system during the summertime.
“In times of renewable energy scarcity, we want to make use of the alternative energy sources. We are using our renewable energy to fuel the farms. We are saving lots on dehumidification costs as we can vent for free. It allows us to control the climate in a more flexible way,” says Robert.
Finnish consumers willing to pay for local products
As Robert explains, vertical farms can typically get a 20-30% higher price for their products compared to imported, open field-produced products because Finnish customers have a strong appreciation for locally produced vegetables. This, combined with the general acceptance of vertical farming and greenhouses in Finland, has also made it easier for Robbe’s Little Garden to be accepted by consumers.
“In countries where field-based production is more widespread, I can understand why explaining the benefits of vertical farming is needed. But here, that is not the case, and our products are going to be crazy fresh compared to imported products,” says Robert. “’We’re talking about minutes or a few hours after harvest, as compared to days or weeks for imported products.”
Full automation to reduce labor requirements
In the 11,000-square meter facility, Robbe’s Little Garden will only need two people for the production/growing area and five people in the packing area thanks the fully automated system. This, as Robert explains, will help to keep the farm competitive within Finland but also prove its potential for other countries as well.
In Finland, vertical farming is already well established for the production of herbs and lettuce. By combining highly efficient technology with the market demand for local arugula, spinach and baby leaf lettuce, Robbe’s Little Garden is pushing closer to Finnish food security every day.