"We still see a lot of room for energetic optimization in the vertical farming space. That's why our team is analyzing more efficient methods of dehumidification and merging synergies from other industries. As well as airflow, climate, heating, and ventilation," says Edwin Snabel, Indoor Farming Solutions at Bosman Van Zaal.
At a time when vertical farming was not yet 'mainstream' in the Netherlands, Bosman Van Zaal was already a part of it. Starting with potted plants and tulips in the 90s, the company took on more projects from international players in food production. Despite the current hiccups in the market, Bosman Van Zaal has set its mind on continuous development to better optimize the processes of vertical farms.
Jacob Boxhoorn and Edwin Snabel in the Bosman Van Zaal facility in Aalsmeer
Improvement on the energy end
If a customer comes in here asking whether it should be a greenhouse or a vertical farm, Jacob Boxhoorn lets know that customers often already have their mind set on what kind of CEA facility they want. Nonetheless, together with the customer, we then look at the best fit." Even as the vertical farming market suffers from growing pains after a major growth spurt, this can certainly still be a high-tech vertical farm.
Being around for more than 100 years in horticulture, the name Bosman Van Zaal might still be connected to greenhouse construction, as well as climate control and containers. However, these days, Bosman Van Zaal is primarily focused on providing turnkey technology for CEA growers, including climate, water- and automation techniques and robotics, whether greenhouse or vertical farm.
A lot is technically possible when it comes to setting up greenhouses and vertical farms. The question, however, is whether these options should be even applied. Firstly, Bosman Van Zaal carefully explores the options with the client before building anything. Jacob adds, "With years of experience in an industry with small margins, we opt for cost-conscious solutions."
In this way, vertical farming is certainly applicable in the global market and the highly competitive Dutch market, given the strong horticulture presence and neat distribution networks. For instance, growers opt for multilayer cultivation when a greenhouse roof is being replaced, and sandwich panels are placed on the roof. Another one is a hybrid form of vertical farming, where cultivation is done in climate chambers and then in a greenhouse, which could be interesting in the Netherlands as well.
Yet, in certain climate zones and with specific products, it may be more favorable from a climatic point of view to grow in a completely closed environment rather than in a greenhouse. Finally, indoor farms can make smart use of renewable energy.
In Aalsmeer, expertise from various horticultural branches is used to avoid reinventing the wheel for any new project. To not reinvent the wheel, Bosman Van Zaal applies its expertise from different horticultural branches. Something Jacob and Edwin see happening quite often in the vertical farming market. Edwin notes, "The question that always needs to be asked is: What purpose does the cultivation facility serve? That determines what is needed technically." Adding onto that, Jacob says, "It also has to do with scale. Our focus is on scaling up cost-efficiently."
The company feels that the industry is at a tipping point, given LEDs are becoming more efficient, increasing climate challenges, and the generation of renewable energy is improving. These factors truly enable Bosman Van Zaal and other parties will continue to realize new projects.
According to Jacob and Edwin, vertical farming will certainly not solve the global food supply issues. Yet, in the future, vertical farming will provide an increasingly broad spectrum of both consumer and medicinal products and starting materials.
Bosman Van Zaal specialists will be present at the VertiFarm exhibition in Dortmund at stand 4.E24, so feel free to pop by and explore their solutions.