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Vertical farming

DLG and Association for Vertical Farming (AVF) to enter cooperation

Both organizations plan specialized strategic partnership globally in the field of indoor and vertical farming.

(DLG). The Association for Vertical Farming (AVF) and the DLG (German Agricultural Society) are planning to enter a strategic partnership to jointly promote the field of indoor and vertical farming, both in Germany and worldwide. To this end, joint platforms for knowledge exchange as well as an industry network will be created. Common projects will further foster this relationship.

The terms urban farming, vertical farming, indoor farming or plant factories may differ in the detail, but the focus remains the same: production of plant-based food in urban spaces, with the associated limited space and partially closed systems. The production in these conditions is more intensive, as with less space, environmental influences need to be precisely controlled. At the same time, the use of water, nutrients and plant protection shall be reduced or sometimes – as in the case of plant protection – completely eliminated. This is only possible if the plants are isolated from pathogens and pests. For example, some systems are hermetically sealed to prevent the entry of undesirable substances. This also means that air supply, water circulation and even control of illumination must be technically regulated and managed.

“AVF’s goal is to promote sustainable growth and development within the international vertical farming industry and community. The AVF promotes this through research projects, co-operations, events and the establishment of a network of companies, experts and research institutions that is actively involved in the vertical farming industry. With the DLG as an internationally active professional organization and organizer of leading trade fairs and conferences, we are gaining a partner that reinforces the contents and strategies of vertical farming in international agricultural networks and promotes new platforms and channels of professional communication with agricultural practitioners,” says Christine Zimmermann-Lössl, Chairwoman of the AVF, in welcoming the planned cooperation between the two professional organizations.

“The production of plant-based foods in urban areas represents a global growth market. In Asia in particular, where urbanization is progressing faster and more intensively than in Europe, such farms are already economically viable. In Europe, especially in Germany, vertical farming practices are still in their infancy. However, Germany is at the forefront of research and is accompanying the trend toward indoor production of specialty crops away from agricultural land. After all, the latter is limited and continues to decline through alternative use. The DLG, together with its professional partner the Association for Vertical Farming, needs to focus on the future,” says Tobias Eichberg, Managing Director of DLG’s Exhibitions Department, in describing the market prospects.

Networks, information, events

In addition to creating platforms and networks for joint exchange, one strategic area of the cooperation will be to produce regular technical publications and conduct surveys among farmers on current knowledge as well as their perspectives on indoor and vertical farming, as emphasized by both partners. They also plan to jointly develop events as part of existing and new projects. These include the AGRITECHNICA ASIA and HORTI ASIA events in Bangkok, Thailand, the International Vertical Farming & Food System Conference in Munich, Germany, as well as other new digital and in-person event formats.

First joint event planned

As part of AGRITECHNICA ASIA/HORTI ASIA digital talks, a first joint AVF and DLG event on “Trends and challenges for Indoor Farming in Asia” is planned for July 29. For more information, visit www.agritechnica-asia.com/digital-connect

About AVF

AVF is the only internationally active non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of Urban and Vertical Farming technologies, designs and companies. It was founded and registered in Munich/Germany in 2013 as a non-profit association. AVF currently has a global membership of some 180 members drawn from industry, academia, institutions and relevant experts.

About DLG

DLG (Deutsche Landwirtschafts-Gesellschaft e.V. – German Agricultural Society), founded in 1885 by Max Eyth, is an open network and serves as a professional voice of agriculture, agribusiness and the food industry. Its goal is to promote progress by transferring and communicating knowledge, quality and technology. DLG has over 30,000 members. It is politically independent and internationally networked. As one of the leading organizations in its sector, DLG organizes trade fairs and events in the fields of agriculture and food technology, conducts tests of foods and beverages, agricultural machinery and equipment, as well as farm inputs, and in a large number of expert committees develops answers to the challenges confronting agriculture, agribusiness and the food industry.

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Cultivation

Symphony of Salad Studies

Ten years ago, the first container farms began to appear in the United States, where enterprising startups tried to grow salads and other green crops. They began to install containers at the places of harvest consumption so as not to waste time, effort and money on the delivery of goods. The first to go were the unused containers of the Boston port, which, instead of being recycled for scrap, were given a second life in the form of high-tech hydroponic growing facilities. As a matter of fact, the containers themselves, in the aspect of this innovation, fulfilled only the function of a rather strong and usable shell of a living organism of a farm. It is based on autonomous equipment, the work of which is somewhat reminiscent of the device of musical instruments – with their help, the energy of thought is transformed into a symphony. And in this case, we are talking about agricultural masterpieces, where mechanical actions programmed by a person, aimed at growing vegetables, are performed by robotic equipment of the farm. It brings together the best developments in industrial programming, energy conservation, and agricultural innovations. In other words, a new scientific direction is being obtained, which can be conditionally called “salad studies”. After all, it is salads that have become one of the most successful and therefore popular crops on container farms.
It is interesting that similar projects began to appear in Ukraine as well. One of the first was the Smart Oasis Farm startup, which became famous for the invention of the “oasis” with fresh water, in other words, installations that are able to generate drinking water from the air. This development has even been tested in the United Arab Emirates – in Dubai. Now Smart Oasis Farm is setting up the production of container farms. Founder of Smart Oasis Farm Alex Prikhodko and development director Anatoly Kalantaryan shared information on how entrepreneurs manage to do this.

– How did you select equipment for the farm, where did you find information about what it should be?
– For about six months we have deeply analyzed similar projects in America, Australia, the Middle East – what technologies and equipment they use, methods and materials. After that, an understanding came of how and what to apply. By the way, there are not many container farms in Europe so far. After analyzing competitors, an analysis was made of potential partners who are already engaged in such solutions. Negotiations led us to the fact that we decided to build our greenhouse ourselves. For the next six months, we selected and ordered components for creating a prototype of a container greenhouse, made molds and hardware software, placed orders and agreed on parameters. It turned out that the entire internal layout of the greenhouse – nodes and elements, modules and automation – became our author’s development. The lion’s share of the equipment was manufactured in Ukraine, what they could not do from us was purchased in China, as well as the container for the greenhouse itself.

photo 2021 04 09 17 05 14

– Has the greenhouse been commissioned yet?
– Yes. Geographically, it is located in the Cherkasy region. -Plus, now it is possible to place the second and even the third similar box on the first container in order to clearly demonstrate the scaling of the project.
Now we are working on improving the greenhouse hardware. From the fan to each pump in the system, the controls are electronically controlled. Our key task is to drastically reduce water consumption, excluding its losses during evaporation. After all, plant nutrition is carried out by the aeroponic method.

– What was the most difficult thing?
– It was difficult to do this at all stages, there is no one to turn to for advice. But the work carried away. The prospect of the business, the ability to grow a completely ecologically safe product, regardless of the external environment, climatic conditions, as close as possible to the place of its consumption, also inspires.

– What challenges did you face when choosing crops and planting material?
– The cultures that we decided to master in the first place are basil, lettuce, baby bodice. It took a long time to select the optimal variant of the substrate, capable of ideally working with aeroponics technology. We tried both peat and coconut. They also experimented with organic substrates, linen and hemp rugs. Basalt wool came up best of all, since the material does not leave dirt behind, has a high level of absorption, retains moisture for a long time, while being inert to the environment and neutral in structure, that is, it does without oxidation or alkalization.
92693515 156466925837044 3711920477636132864 nIt was easier to choose planting material – we use Rijk Zwaan seeds. We spent some time experimenting looking for an answer to the question of the economic feasibility of using more expensive pelleted seeds and found that these costs are unnecessary in our case. At least, we did not observe an increase in yield when using pelleted seeds. We use GHE products as a fertilizer supplier. At the moment, we are preparing to grow berries and low-growing vegetables. In order to achieve optimal system settings that will speed up the growing process without losing the organoleptic characteristics of the product, sometimes we even deliberately expose the plants to additional risks, for example, we increase the temperature in order to identify critical indicators based on the results. To calculate the economic component, you need to grow the crop, weigh it, and understand what operating costs accompanied the process.

81520124 125147718968965 8550466677228175360 n

– What are the yields, do you have experience in their implementation?
– The average weight of lettuce or basil, which we get from one seat, is from 125 to 150 grams. By using a different type of containers, more spacious and oversized, we plan to increase the number of seats from 1440 to 1900 by increasing the number of tiers from four to five. Consumption of seeds per one seat is 3 pieces. The payback of such a greenhouse on salad and spicy crops at their current market price is 3-4 years.
So far we have not been selling the lettuce that we have grown. We were happy to entertain everyone – friends, guests, employees and all those who help us in launching production.

– How are you going to develop the project?
-“We are preparing to launch mass production of such container farms, which can be combined into large greenhouse complexes, where different crops can be grown at the same time. We are going to sell such boxes and technology.

– And what about the financing?
– The project has a strategic investor who has allocated the current round of financing. At the moment, we are also discussing with him further investments to create an industrial complex capable of providing the production of dozens of container-farms per month.

– What can you say about potential buyers of such farms?
– These are educational institutions that are obliged to provide children with fresh produce, and farmers who are already engaged in this business, but cannot get the predicted harvest, as well as the HoReCa segment …
In fact, we have created an electronic technologist, where all agro-technological maps are already included in the software. It is not necessary to be an agronomist to successfully grow crops in such a container.

– Where do you see great prospects in increasing the number of container farms or converting urban facilities into ecosystems for industrial plant cultivation?
– Both options make sense – both have their advantages and disadvantages. The advantages of re-equipment of existing urban facilities include the availability of communications (water and electricity), partially prepared infrastructure. However, to ensure maximum energy efficiency and due to the specific climatic conditions required for growing plants, the room still needs to be additionally waterproofed and thermally insulated. And also integrate a climate control system into it, which will make it possible to grow crops that need similar climatic requirements.
The advantages of container farms include the absence of the need for capital or repair work, and the readiness to quickly launch such complexes. It is important to note that each greenhouse complex is a closed climate cycle that allows you to grow different crops with a variety of climatic requirements.

– Why, in your opinion, urban farming in Ukraine is not developing very rapidly, when to expect a boom?
– Due to the abundance of natural resource opportunities that Ukraine has. But over time, this segment will begin to develop more rapidly in our country due to economic, logistic and technological factors. Also, this direction carries with it the greening of both production and consumption, which, in turn, also develops and becomes more in demand by people, companies and the state.

photo 2021 04 09 17 05 17

 

 

based on materials from the magazine Vegetables and Fruits

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Cultivation

Scientists unlock potential to yield “diet” fruit

A new study has demystified sugar distribution in plants, paving the way to create low sugar or ‘diet’ fruits. The study, published in Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), culminates
seven years of research by the University of Newcastle’s Professor Yong-Ling Ruan from the School of Environmental and Life Sciences, in collaboration with peers at Northwest A&F University.

Professor Ruan said their research pinpointed the indicators that governed how much sugar is transported to the vacuole or ‘storage warehouse’ of a plant cell.

“This discovery provides new tools and directions for improving plant growth, defence and sugar levels using gene technology,” Professor Ruan said.

“It opens the door to increase or reduce the amount of sugars in plants, helping farmers to increase the quality and yield of fresh products such as fruits and sugar cane or produce low sugar, high sweetness fruit for a diabetic patient.”

Yuan

The science behind sugar transport in plants
At the cellular level in plants, sugars are delivered to the cytoplasm – a thick solution that fills each cell. The remaining sugar is then offloaded in the vacuole of the cell.

Professor Ruan was driven by curiosity to understand exactly how sugar makes its way from the cytoplasm to the vacuole. Understanding this link could help scientists answer long-held
questions such as why fruits are so sweet yet leaves are not.

By studying apples and tomatoes, Professor Ruan said the team discovered that two different types of sugar transporters work together to transport huge amounts of sugar into vacuoles.

“We found that glucose exported to the cytoplasm by a transporter called ERDL6 activates the expression of a major sugar influx gene. This significantly increases sugar levels in the plant
cells,” Professor Ruan said.

“Our findings represent a major advance in understanding the molecular control of sugar transport and signalling within plant cells.”

For more information:
Penny Harnett
Tel: +61 2 4921 6779
penny.harnett@newcastle.edu.au

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Technique system

Appeal of Santa Ynez Valley greenhouse denial stalls

An appeal of a denial by the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission of a greenhouse near Solvang went unresolved Tuesday when the project was sent back to staff for an analysis of blackout curtains’ effectiveness at blocking light at night.

It appeared the Board of Supervisors might have had enough “yes” votes to grant Steve Decker’s appeal of the decision to deny his project, proposed for Fredensborg Canyon Road, but the board ended up voting 4-1 to seek additional environmental review.

Fourth District Supervisor Bob Nelson voted “no” based on 2nd District Supervisor Gregg Hart’s assertion that not enough technical information had been provided to determine the system’s effectiveness, even though Decker said the system must block light both going out and coming in, and companies would not build the systems if they didn’t work.

Evidence
“I do believe we have enough evidence to approve this project,” Nelson said. “I believe this will be the death of this project and the loss of six jobs — that’s an equity issue in this county.”

Although the staff said the board could specify that the environmental review focus on the night sky light pollution issue, the motion did not include that, which leaves it up to the Planning and Development Department to determine how much review will be given all categories of potential environmental impacts.

County ordinances require an applicant to pay the costs of environmental review, but Decker didn’t seem inclined to do that, which could prevent his appeal — and therefore his project — from being approved.

Read the complete article at www.lompocrecord.com.

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