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Market acceptance, storytelling gains and how the EU can boost CEA

France: "When explaining the benefits of vertical farming, consumers are more willing"

"By adopting a rotating LED cylinder we are using 3,6 times less energy than when using multiple lamps for the same amount of plants. The cylinders can be removed when maintenance is needed in robotization can be adopted to remove manual labor, which is often seen in other farms," says Vincent Truffault, Director of Agronomy at Future Gaïa.

As a technology provider, Futura Gaïa sells farms (under franchise) and agronomy licenses that allow growers to 'just press the button' and everything in the farm will be running for itself. Our customers are growers and are selling their produce from the farm. However, compared to the more traditional vertical farms, the French startup does things a bit differently: the plants are rotating around the LEDs instead of having fixed lights illuminate the produce constantly.

"What sets our system apart is that we are using geoponics, which is linked to the quality of the plants. We are a fan of microbiome as plants should be grown in soil, especially when it comes with some beneficial micro-organisms. Geoponics creates a continuum between soil, plants and the quality, which indirectly, benefits human health too," Vincent adds.

Resource use
When it comes to the water consumption for one head of lettuce, a heated greenhouse uses 4,77L and hydroponic growers use 2,93L. Whereas Future Gaïa, as Vincent claims, uses 2,11L per head of lettuce which is less than regular hydroponic growers and more than 50% less than greenhouse growers. Nutrient consumption for 1 head of lettuce is 15,46g for greenhouse growers and 9,58g for hydroponic growers. However, Futura Gaïa is scoring a significantly higher resource use with 14,23g per head of lettuce. "A heated greenhouse produces 510 (gCO2eq) per head of lettuce, whereas we produce 224 (gCO2eq) per head of lettuce which is more than 50% less," Vincent points out.

Showing off these numbers, Vincent hopes to prove that the Future Gaïa system could be an alternative to the existing open field and greenhouse production systems.

Acceptance of French consumers
At this moment in time, Vincent has not seen many issues yet on how the market has perceived the product. "It's labeled as pesticide-free and indoor-grown, which in France is not very common and thus makes the technology not very easy to accept. However, when explaining that it allows growers for a better income and it comes with environmental-, and pesticide-free benefits they are more willing." However, there is still a lot of storytelling to do in the French market, as Vincent notices, in which all national vertical farms have a big role to play.

"Without sharing the secret recipe, vertical farmers should come together to communicate on how to sell our products." There is yet a lot of storytelling to do in the French market as, in contrast to Asia where it's a broadly accepted farming method, a new perspective on CEA should be created for the sake of farmers and consumers, Vincent finds. "More grants and funding are needed to achieve this too as we're still in the beginning stage as an industry."

Given the numerous data points and metrics collected, it should not be the hardest task to prove that CEA has numerous benefits for the EU to prove that farmers can use these funds for good.

For more information:
Futura Gaïa
Vincent Truffault, Director of Agronomy