Philips Lighting has announced that Staay Food Group, a fresh fruit and vegetables company, is building the first of its kind vertical farm in Dronten, the Netherlands, using Philips GreenPower LED horticultural lighting. The facility will serve one of Europe’s biggest supermarket chains and be used for testing, and optimizing processes for future, larger vertical farms.
The 900m2 indoor vertical farm will have over 3,000m2 of growing space and produce pesticide-free lettuce. With upcoming stricter regulations on the residual pesticide levels in a bag or bowl of lettuce, retailers will need to provide exceedingly high quality, pesticide-free lettuce.
Staay, Philips Lighting and vegetable breeder Rijk Zwaan collaborated and undertook intensive research over the past three years to determine the best combination of lettuce varieties and growth recipes in order to improve crop quality and yields. Having the right growth recipe ready prior to the start of operations at the vertical farm will help Staay achieve a faster return on investment.
“Our plant specialists at our GrowWise research center in Eindhoven are testing with seeds of a selection of the most suitable lettuce varieties, to define the best growth recipes and to optimize the crop growth even before the farm is running,” said Udo van Slooten, Managing Director of Philips Lighting Horticulture LED Solutions.
“Producing lettuce for the fresh-cut segment indoors not only means avoiding all pesticides, it also means much lower bacterial count and therefore longer shelf life at the retailers. With the lettuce being packaged at the same spot as where it is grown, we save on transport before distribution to retailers,” says Rien Panneman, CEO of Staay Food Group. “Also, by avoiding weather fluctuations, we maintain an optimized and stable production environment to guarantee consistent and optimal product quality.”
Wim Grootscholten, manager marketing and business development of Rijk Zwaan said: “The tests we are conducting within this project are enabling us to identify which varieties are optimal for growing in a vertical farm, and also which varieties offer the best taste and texture. It will help us with our continuous challenge to offer solutions for the growing world population. We believe that vertical farms will become increasingly important, because in the future we see more economic and environmental pressure to produce fruit and vegetables, such as lettuce, closer to where end-customers are located.”
The vertical farms in Europe, using LED-based lighting have so far been research centers or specialist producers serving restaurants. The new Staay facility in Dronten will be the first in Europe to operate commercially, serving large scale retail. The facility will start operating in the second half of 2017.