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Opportunities ahead

Austria: 400km2 of indoor space available for vertical farming

"Food production will once again become part of everyday urban life," predicts Daniel Podmirseg. For the board member and founder of the Vertical Farm Institute, it is clear that in order to solve the energy and climate issues, structural elements of the food value chain will have to be integrated into buildings or city districts in the future. We are talking about vertical farming.

This does not necessarily require buildings designed from scratch; potential also lies fallow in existing properties. "There are about 400 square kilometers of unused indoor space in Austria that can definitely be activated for a range of products," Podmirseg, who took part in the working group "Feeding the City - or Is the City Feeding You?" at the Alpbach Technology Talks yesterday, Friday, calculated in an interview.

At the interdisciplinary Vertical Farm Institute, for example, they are looking at what is the smallest defensible space to grow food, but one that also has an impact on the city. "The smallest Vertical Farm we've developed and will implement next year is 750 cubic meters," Podmirseg says. That's three shipping containers that house nutrient supplies, additional lighting, building services, and a processing room. A greenhouse with a height of about six meters will then grow out of these containers.

The system consists of two accesses. On one side is the building, control, and regulation technology. In the other part, a paternoster system moves the plants around their own axis five times a day. This makes it possible to reduce the additional lighting to the necessary minimum, he says. Podmirseg explains the principle behind this as follows: "What kilocalories are for us is the daylight integral for the plants. This means that at the end of the day, each plant has received the same amount of 'Energy for Free.' The part of the calories that the plant needs to keep photosynthesis as active as possible is also provided by artificial LED lighting. It's practically a combination of the two."



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