Why the experience of champignon growers, high-tech greenhouses and witloof producers should not be ignored

Key mistakes of vertical farms

In her speech at the “Vertical Farms: Development Strategies, Business Models and Risks” online conference, Kateryna Poberezhna, FAO International Consultant, noted that “Very expensive technologies and an insufficient level of knowledge are also challenges, especially since this is not only agronomy but engineering, as well.” Despite the growth in investments in vertical farms around the world, many startups are going bankrupt, and this is due not only to insufficient market research and rising energy costs. The creators of vertical farms often make the same mistakes, and the main ones are:

  • underestimation of plant requirements,
  • underestimation of actual labor costs,
  • ignoring (or ignorance?) of the experience of modern high-tech greenhouses, champignon growers, and witloof chicory salad producers.

Normally, the productivity of vertical farms (yield, water, fertilizer consumption, etc.) is compared with growing plants in an open field, but this is wrong. Vertical farms should be compared with modern hydroponic greenhouses, where both yields are higher, and the consumption of water, fertilizers, and energy per unit of production is much lower than in the open field. Investments in modern hydroponic greenhouses per square meter are much lower than those of vertical farms. This does not mean that vertical farms have no future. They do, provided they make a correct assessment of all risks and thoughtful design and operation of the farms themselves.

Usually, when establishing vertical farms, an installation is created first and then tests what can be grown there start. Everything can be grown in hydroponics, even bananas, and some manage to grow apple trees. True, not all of these plants are suitable for multi-tiered placement, and often it is not necessary. When designing a modern high-tech greenhouse, it should be initially taken into account which crop will grow there. A greenhouse for cucumbers or tomatoes is different from a greenhouse for peppers and eggplants, and a greenhouse for roses is different from a greenhouse for strawberries or spinach. 

Read more at east-fruit.com/en

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