Slip behind a bee-proof mesh curtain in an old Foxton factory building, and a sweet surprise awaits. "Welcome to our secret laboratory," Matthew Keltie said.
This is 26 Seasons' first vertical strawberry farm and R and D hub for the indoor growing technology Keltie and his colleagues are developing. Keltie co-founded the firm in 2017, growing microgreens in a former Wellington nightclub.
After trialing 1000 strawberry plants last year, they now have 8000 under light, and the plan is to scale up further to 70,000 plants, producing a million punnets of strawberries a year. Working out how to get the best yield, taste, and shelf life, all without sunlight, soil, or sprays, is a work in progress, he said.
The lighting system being developed here is super slick, and Keltie won't reveal too much. "There's a lot of people playing in this space, and there are different spectrums to get the plants to do different things when we want the plant to change modes, which is slightly more efficient than the sun."
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