"We have a project in Dubai where we set up a hybrid strawberry farm using Revoponics, as we call them, vertical growing towers. As the demand is growing in Europe and the UAE, there are a lot of exciting other projects coming up. It makes sense because Revoponics is such a good fit for the vertical farming market, due to its highly energy-efficient growing process and the versatility of growing various crops," Praveen Sharma, founder of Flora Consult.
Strawberry farm in Dubai
A special feature is the turning towers inside the hybrid farm. So why are the towers turning? That's a technique developed by Flora Consult that's solving the following issues that take place in traditional vertical farms, according to Praveen.
"Because of the rotation, we can almost double the plant population for a given area. Besides that, we can supply a homogeneous micro-climate and ventilation to all the plants. This helps growers to save on CapEx and OpEx in terms of lighting both from the sun and LEDs overnight due to the spinning tower."
A peak view of the farm
Revoponics aren't only limited to strawberries but can also grow various greens, fruiting crops, herbs, and so on. The system can be tailor-made depending on the total volume of the growing warehouse. A Revoponics Grow Tower ranges from 3.2 m to 4.6 m in height.
The hybrid setup permits sunlight to supply the plants with their needed dose of light, whereas at night, the plants are using supplemental lighting from LEDs. There are various materials used for the towers. A mix of Flora's patented designs of grow towers, weather monitors, fertigation controllers, racking systems, and rotational mechanism.
Big footprint in low-cost greenhouses, now aiming for vertical farming
Flora Consult is a greenhouse builder by heart in countries such as Kenya, Ethiopia, the United Arab Emirates, and now globally. Established in 1997, the company has won various International Awards for its projects.
Besides that, Praveen has seen huge changes in horti- and floriculture. As the company has been involved with developing large-scale projects for commercial hydroponic growers, both in horticulture and floriculture, Flora Consult now has products available for vertical farmers as well. Ever since the last 12 years, their focus has been shifted to vegetables, strawberries, and herbs.
A finished flower project in Kenya
Research to take vertical farming to the next level
"Our sole objective is to offer viable projects. Together with the grower, we'll walk them through a step-by-step plan. We have established our in-house Research and Development Centre, known as the Center for Innovation and Training on Vertical Farming, to ensure guaranteed success."
The main objectives of the R&D center are to develop vertical growing models with higher productivity, as well as energy efficient grow systems. At the same time, protocols are developed for various crop nutrient recipes. "With all these trials, we've gathered and analyzed the results that are released in diverse studies on the benefits of various farming techniques compared to others."
Besides the growing towers, Flora Consult also supplies poly greenhouses, horizontal stacked- farms, horizontal- and pyramid NFT systems, home growing installations, and more. The smallest sized farm starts at 1000sqm, and the largest can be as much as 1000 Ha.
Praveen in one of his trainings on-site
"Presently, we are working on creating a huge HortiVoltaic project in Africa. HortiVoltaics is an energy efficient grow system combined with renewable energy."
According to Praveen, HortiVoltaics and Revoponics are a deadly combo because a 1000m2 facility can offer 50KW, which is enough to meet the basic requirements of climate control. As Praveen shares, the largest vertical farm they have constructed so far counts a humble 4000 sqm. In the next year, there's a large-scale HortiVoltaic project coming up in Africa.