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Ghana: Vertical farm entity flourishes in Accra

"With the current setup, the farm can grow leafy greens, herbs, coriander, mint, lettuce, either foreign or local varieties, fruity veggies such as tomatoes, and bell pepper. With strawberries coming soon," says Ernest Larmie, Co-founder and CEO of Farm Estate, an Accra-based vertical farm in Ghana. With a combination of greenhouse facilities, where cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes and strawberries are grown. As well as a vertical farm that allows Farm Estate to cultivate various exotic lettuce varieties.

Ernest Larmie

Given his former work in media, whilst working on a documentary 'Poison on the Menu', Ernest was confronted with the pesticide use of open field production. As his brothers have a strong electrics, software and engineering background, they came together and started working on a university project together focusing on indoor agriculture. Having very little knowledge in agronomy and CEA, they started testing it as many had done before across the globe. With the helping hand of an agronomist and some funding from Kosmos Innovation Center (KIC) Ernest and his team were able to set up Farm Estate.

Importing seeds from Europe, Farm Estate can grow exotic lettuce varieties that are normally unable to grow in this part of the country. Sticking to pure hydroponics, substrate doesn't come to use in the farm as it helps the farmers to avoid cost. Instead, sponges are used. The entire growing production takes about 31 days until they are ready for harvest. Currently, they are growing 2 types of lettuce. Before, the team ahs been experimenting with numerous lettuce varieties, sweet pepper, and tomatoes, and very soon, they want to add fruiting vegetables as well.

Dashboard view

Collecting data from various sensors in the growing room, humidity, temperature and nutrients, and fertigation tanks, the team can still closely monitor the plant health in the farm and automatically steer it to the preferred levels. All data collected is broadcast live, meaning that all can be monitored, improved and extracted.

Adding QR and barcodes to the en products, allows customers to see the entire journey from seed to harvest of the product that's on their dining table. "In case there's an issue we can always retract them and inform them about it." The farm's Batavia Lettuce and Lollo Rossa lettuce are available in more than 10 chains across Accra, in farmers' markets, and on a local e-commerce platform.

One of the end products produced by the farm

Trial and error
"In the beginning, we had to find the right parameters suiting our varieties on the farm. However, in the past two years, we did a lot of testing and trial and error. That has taken us to where we are now. However, sometimes we're still struggling with downtime as sometimes electricity shuts off and thus our lights too. Yet, the plants need 16 hours of lighting per day, so we are working on a solution for that to remedy it in the future," Ernest explains.

Besides being on top of growing plants themselves, Farm Estate is also adopting franchising models across Ghana. "Our scalable container farms offer a modular, climate-controlled solution for year-round local food production." The franchise model comes in two different sizes; a single container farm, and a double one which has the in-house made Farm Management Software and crop recipes integrated.

For more information:
Farm Estates
+233 54 981 3866
HB405 Carney St, Achiaman