"Rising energy prices are a challenge for all food producers. Energy costs can be one of the crucial barriers for many potential users of our technology, and we are aware of it. Therefore, to give the right outlook on future profits, we consider energy prices for several years ahead, thus providing certainty of the returns. To manage operational costs, we offer solar panels and heat pumps," notes Wojciech Krajewski, Founder, and CEO of Hydropolis, a Polish agtech.
According to Wojciech, renewable energy sources are among the most effective way to drastically decrease the energy costs of running a vertical farm. Hydropolis' hydroponic system uses less water and fewer fertilizers, allowing increasing savings in other areas outside of energy prices.
"As the situation in the gas and energy market is unstable, we keep researching new ways to provide the most cost-effective solutions."
Ever since its origin in 2020, the company's mission has been to deliver innovation in the agriculture sector, providing ecological alternatives to conventional growing methods.
Hydropolis developed two different technologies for indoor farming: Smart Crop, a complete vertical farming system, and Plantainer, a hydroponic container farm inside. Software that
automates the system is responsible for all farming processes. The solutions deliver resource-efficient and high-quality crop production, including preliminary design and estimation of all costs and returns.
Potential of vertical farming in Poland
As Wojciech explains, every year, Poland must deal with more severe climate change effects. Water resources in the country are very scarce. Continuous droughts are affecting crop production and causing losses.
On top of that, the current economic and political situation is threatening the well-being of many food producers. As a company that delivers alternative indoor farming methods which are water-efficient and year-round, Hydropolis wants to address these issues. Speaking about market potential, the company has based its business plan on fresh produce consumption.
"To be more specific, we choose lettuce, as it's one of our main crops to farm. By OEC, Poland in 2020 became the 11th largest exporter and importer of lettuce worldwide. Also, other statistics note an increase in lettuce consumption in the last decade. While the annual consumption reached around 50 000 tons in 2010, the number went to more than 103 000 tons in 2019," Wojciech claims.
The growth trend is dynamic. Whereas, at the beginning of the decade, the annual consumption of lettuce was only 1.3 kg per person which grew to 2.72 kg in 2019. It goes in paired with a change in consumer habits. More and more Poles are moving toward a more mindful and sustainable lifestyle. Society has also become increasingly environmentally conscious and pays more attention to sustainability aspects like where food comes from and whether it is processed or pesticide-free, Wojciech explains.
The Hydropolis team
Demand from retail
Food producers are among the group of clients that contact the company most since they want to protect themselves from the effects of climate change and ensure uninterrupted year-round crop production. Besides that, the team also gets approached by retail chain representatives and food wholesalers who want to switch to more local and sustainable food production.
"Our startup focuses on delivering the highest quality products and services at a competitive price. We built superior customer service providing full training and mentorship for new growers. To make farming efficient in terms of production costs, we use HydroLED lamps with movable functions and renewable energy sources," Wojciech adds.
The first crop production constructed was an R&D center in Krakow, Poland. That's where the team runs and tests growing recipes for new plant species. Sales began in March this year, and currently, the company is in the negotiation stage for building a 980m2 vertical farm outside Warsaw.
The farm is fully developed and equipped by Hydropolis. The top targets on the market are local farmers and food producers. However, the systems are also suited for restaurants, hotels, research centers, NGOs, and schools. Hydropolis' current primary market is Europe, though it is focusing on entering the Middle East market soon.
Grow Wizard is the secret ingredient that makes Hydropolis' technology special. This all-in-one automation software makes farming easy and comfortable. The company wants its technology to be accessible to farmers and entrepreneurs at every level of knowledge. From planting seedlings and harvesting to sales, the platform gives more optimized crops and less wasteful food production.
Tailored growing recipes
Our systems use hydroponics, allowing us to grow almost any vegetables, fruits, herbs, and microgreens. The team is currently testing different algorithms for numerous herbs and greens. Besides that, they can develop a special growing recipe at the customer's request.
Adding onto that, Wojciech says," We constantly expand our growing recipes list with plants like flowers, micro-herbs, and medicinal herbs. Currently, we are developing intelligent technology for growing strawberries. We are planning to launch it in the coming year. In the future, we plan to research the possibilities of farming protein crops."
"Depending on individual capabilities, we offer a range of products that can suit numerous needs. Smart Crop is suitable for farm sizes from 40 up to 2000m2. It is easy to scale and perfect for commercial use. For aspiring farmers that don't have the proper infrastructure or space, we designed Plantainer," Wojciech explains.
The equipment is compatible and transportable worldwide, allowing farming anywhere in the world. Hydropolis aims to provide farmers and entrepreneurs with a product that allows them to grow plants locally and regardless of the season.