"Parcitank's main production line is focused on the manufacture of stainless steel tanks, and we had the idea of using them to house a vertical farming system, with fully controlled conditions, that could help us optimize the production in the smallest possible acreage," said Cristian Nieves. "This is how we developed the Farmitank technology, which allows us to grow up to 400 m² of crops on different levels in cylindrical stainless steel tanks measuring 6 m in diameter and up to 18 m in height, i.e., in fewer than 40 m² of surface area."
The LIFE Farmitank project, launched in September 2021, is now on the verge of its global market launch. This new vertical farming system has entered a new phase with the installation of a prototype at Florette Ibérica's headquarters in Spain (located in the municipality of Milagro, in the province of Navarre), where various crops will be tested to demonstrate the socioeconomic and environmental advantages of this technology developed and patented by the Spanish company Parcitank, S.A.
"The system stands out for being a modular, scalable and dismountable turnkey system, which takes a minimal amount of space and makes it possible to house up to 30 levels of crops. Also, Farmitank takes care of every step in the entire process, from the design, manufacture and commissioning to providing advice for each kind of crop."
"It can be easily installed in a customer-chosen location; in production plants, processing plants, and even in logistics centers, thus reducing the need to transport foodstuffs."
"The lighting, climate and irrigation conditions are fully under control thanks to the control software, so the system offers the advantages of saving water, producing 100% pesticide and herbicide-free vegetables, and allowing for fewer discards, as the products are not in contact with the soil. Above all, however, it makes it possible to obtain a stable production in terms of yields, with stable quality and also stable costs: three key elements to guarantee profitability in agricultural production, as pointed out by Cristian. The Farmitank system allows this because it is isolated from external climatic conditions in a context of great instability and changes in the weather.
"In Europe, due to the problems with the climate and droughts, the use of vertical farming systems is on the rise"
This European research and demonstration project, integrated within the LIFE 2020 call for projects and co-funded by the European Commission, is led by Parcitank S.A. and has partners such as Florette, CNTA, Floréale and Hermanos Torres Cornago, with each entity playing a different role in the project:
- Parcitank, S.A.: In addition to coordinating and leading the project, its main mission is the design, manufacture, installation, commissioning and maintenance of Farmitank, as well as the provision of consulting services.
- Florette Ibérica: Responsible for the prototype's operation and for collecting and analyzing crop results. It brings its experience and skills in crop and post-harvest management and is at the helm of the project's operation.
- CNTA: Leader of the analytical campaign in which parameters like food safety, quality and crop conservation are analyzed.
- Floréale: It participates in the project's replicability and transferability strategy by analyzing its possible replicability in Agrial group companies.
- Hermanos Torres Cornago S.L.: Its mission is to compare the products obtained in its farms and greenhouses with those obtained with Farmitank in terms of quality, production volumes, costs and sustainability.
The prototype installed at Florette Ibérica's headquarters has 312 m² of usable cultivation area divided into 24 cultivation levels. The facility also has a storage and planting room, an entrance chamber and an irrigation room. It was put into operation for research purposes during the first week of March and will be used for cultivation trials for several varieties of lettuce, aromatic herbs and sprouts. Life cycle analyses of the products will also be carried out in order to analyze the carbon footprint associated with their production.
Farmitank has been patented worldwide and is hitting the market at a time when vertical farming solutions are increasingly in demand. "We see that such systems are in demand in various regions of the world, such as the Middle East. In Europe we are a bit behind, but due to the problems with the climate and droughts, the use of vertical farming is on the rise."
"In the United Kingdom in particular, a lot of people are betting on this technology as a result of Brexit, as it makes it possible to rely less on imports. In fact, we see that since the COVID pandemic, the industry is becoming increasingly de-globalized and is betting heavily on local produce, and vertical farming is one of the tools to achieve this."