“Our younger perspective and open-mindedness towards new things can help Plantation be dynamic in the vertical farming space,” says Lukas Richter, the 17-year-old CEO of the German vertical farming company called Plantation.
Alongside his colleagues Raphael (16 years old) and Jonas (15 years old), Lukas came up with a tunnel-type production system to grow plants in a more space-efficient way. Their goal is to bring vertical farming into grocery stores to reduce food miles and water consumption.
The Plantation founders
Challenging the status quo with a rotational design
Plantation has designed a rotational growing system that uses aeroponics to deliver nutrient solutions to the plant roots. As Lukas explains, Plantation has found a way to grow plants on the outside of the drums or tunnels, allowing the design to use fewer misting nozzles as the plant roots are “more centered around the nozzles.”
Since the growing system is designed to rotate, plants do not stay in one position for a long time. Rather, the drum rotates 90 degrees, and the plants rest in this new position for a while before continuing their journey.
The Plantation team is currently building its prototype in order to compare the plant growth rate in their rotational system to the growth rate in a traditional aeroponic system. Lukas and his colleagues are convinced that this concept will work.
The first step will be to figure out the ideal rotation periods using leafy greens that are not too heavy. As Lukas explains, the rotation of the system may even accelerate plant growth by modulating the activity of growth regulators.
“Auxins are really interesting because they are released more often when the orientation changes, which means the plants may grow faster due to the different orientations in the gravitational field,” says Lukas.
Plantation has applied for funding from Jugend forscht and hopes to build the prototype by the end of 2022 so that they can submit the first part of their work in January 2023 and begin trialing the system. The group is not currently in touch with big companies or investors but enjoys discussing their idea with industry members.