The challenges posed by urbanization and the gradual dwindling of arable land is driving more farming indoors. The agri-tech start-up Future Crops, Ltd. has developed the first indoor vertical farming system that grows its crops in a unique soil substrate composition, bringing this nascent farming concept closer to home and to the earth.
The Israeli-Dutch venture has established a fully automated 8,000m 2 indoor vertical farm in Westland, Netherlands, the “greenhouse hub” of Europe. The facility, towering nine stories, is powered primarily by solar energy, and combined with high precision agricultural technology. It can provide optimal growing conditions for a broad spectrum of leafy greens and herbs.
Future Crops CEO and co-founder Gary Grinspan attests that this method of cultivation not only delivers quality fresh produce, it enables the produce to reclaim its original characteristic taste and aromas that have been degraded following decades of pesticide use and industry pressures to place the focus on boosting output. Future Crops’ advanced technology maximizes yield per area unit in comparison to traditional agriculture, with no compromise on quality.
The company utilizes innovative data-driven technology to tailor the ideal environmental conditions for crops to thrive within a highly controlled, automated structure. The system controls dozens of parameters of growth conditions, including humidity, temperature, and lighting to create optimal climatic conditions to suit each crop. Grinspan likens its technology to a “plant whisperer.”
“Plants will draw what they need from nature,” he explains. “Our team of agronomists are able to ‘listen’ to each plant to determine its individual needs in real time—how much ‘sleep’ versus light, the type of light, air quality, how much water, specific nutrient needs, etc. The plants ‘respond’ in their own unique language as expressed via small nuances such as changes in morphology, shape, size, and colour. Via these signals, our algorithm can be primed to provide the plants precisely what they need at each stage of their life cycle.”
The crops are grown in a soil-based substrate. “We composed a unique nutrient enriched soil-like recipe as the bed for growing all our produce to keep it as close to what nature intended” continues Grinspan. “We learned from nature and did not want to change its rules. Our system can consistently grow a comprehensive range of herbs and leafy microgreens throughout the year, completely free of any pesticides or biological substances, and with zero dependence on climate conditions.”