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Damiano Ghirlanda (Plastic Box):

From floating to vertical farming: the evolution of plastic panels in hydroponic cultivation

Despite the pandemic and the lockdowns, innovative hydroponic projects by Plastic Box haven't stalled., The company out of Verona (Italy) is specialized in the production of reusable plastic packaging and floating system plastic panels. "Fortunately," says sales director Damiano Ghirlanda.

"Things went very well for us. Our sector was among the few that were spared in the pandemic. We've always worked on being a fundamental resource for the horticulture industry."

Over the past years, Plastic Box has collaborated with an Italian supplier of pooling circuits for large retailers. With this partnership, the company will be producing more than five million reusable packages with barcode, QR-code and RFID traceability technologies," Damiano explains.

This collaboration allowed the company to implement automated production of plastic boxes and expand its product range. The boxes are made of traditional- and second-generation detectable materials. These materials increase packaging performance and drastically reduce the risk of contamination in the finished product."

Today, Plastic Box supplies more than 100 different models, including volumetric recovery (logistic) boxes, traditional boxes, and specific products for multiple sectors (from poultry-, and -mineral water to the wine sector.

Patented technology
With regards to the hydroponics branch, Plastic Box has filed international patents for the design of its panels. The special design of the floating platforms allows to grow vegetables even in the most extreme conditions of both water temperature and dissolved oxygen. This aspect is essential for the deep breathing of the roots. 

"We are also currently collaborating with global players in vertical farming space," Damiano adds. "Today we have relationships in many countries around the world, including Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, and overseas with Singapore and the US. At the same time, we have also expanded our range of floating panels. These are all strictly made of HDPE for food, both for growing adult salads of different sizes, and for baby leaves."

The last project is the partnership with the innovative start-up Kilometro Verde. "We have become a technical and strategic partner for the construction of a state-of-the-art facility for lettuce cultivation. This will be the largest vertical farm in Europe" Damiano remarks.

"Today, hydroponics is a niche market, especially in terms of salads. Yet, in the next few years, if the investment sustainability can be proved, we will witness a real exponential growth of the sector," Damiano points out. "On the other hand, phytosanitary problems, the shortage of water resources and the lack of personnel to be employed in the countryside will increasingly force growers to invest in alternative technologies."

"The future," concludes Plastic Box's sales manager, "is definitely in the soilless cultivation of fruit and vegetables, where there is total control of the entire production process. This allows to drastically reduce water consumption as well as fertilizers and pesticides, thus maximizing the final yield."

For more information:
Damiano Ghirlanda, Sales manager
[email protected] 
+39 (0)442 921 35
+39 (0)442 675 022
Plastic Box Srl
Via Polesine, 1592
37043 Castagnaro (VR), Italy