Start-up companies are revolutionizing the production of food worldwide. Indoor farms and closed cycles are being used to develop innovative methods to satisfy human hunger.
Closed cycle: Cultivation and recycling
Contrary to what the normal visitor to a farm can imagine, the use of the sun and the soil is avoided. The systems are not outdoor crops, but are located 600m underground in a former ore mine, just like the Callio company in Finland, for example. The conditions for the production of food and feed are ideal. The average temperature in the depths is 20°C. Modern light-emitting diodes and high-pressure sodium vapour lamps are responsible for photosynthesis, i.e. the conversion of substances otherwise driven by sunlight.
There is no need for weed and insect control underground. Harmful inputs, failed harvests due to droughts or too much sunlight or storms are no longer possible. In such systems the plants are irrigated with nutrient solutions. This system is called hydroponic. It is important to record and evaluate data, the brightness, temperature and humidity must be recorded and readjustments must be made. The energy of innovation is immense.
Swiss company MABEWO AG is also at the forefront - with a plant planned in Groß-Gerau and due to open in August 2020, it will be possible to prove what is also being researched elsewhere: Closed systems are more effective and environmentally friendly than open land cultivation. The disadvantages of higher energy consumption by closed systems are compensated by renewable energies such as photovoltaics, explains environmental engineer and CEO Jörg Trübl.
Environmental services - urban farming - sustainable food
A big experiment is underway in Belgium. In the city of Brussels, for example, food is growing on 4,000 m2 in a roof farm in a closed cycle. The rooftop farm enables the cultivation of vegetables and herbs and fish farming. The water from the fish farm is recycled and the excrements of the fish serve as fertiliser. Europe's largest roof farm with vegetable garden and aquaponics farm comprises 2,000 sqm of hanging gardens with vegetable cultivation and 2,000 sqm of aquaculture. Food for the plants comes from the cycle of fish farming and combines aquaculture and hydroponics, which means that the nutrient-rich water of the fish can be used to irrigate and fertilize the plants. The urine and excrements of the fish contain ammonia, which is converted to nitrate, an important nutrient. The water is treated by means of filters and then serves as a plant fertilizer. Up to 90 percent water and fertiliser savings are achieved compared to conventional agriculture.
MABEWO AG relies on autonomously operated indoor plants. "In the Green Dome, the plants grow under regulated and controlled conditions. Photovoltaic systems supply the production areas directly and self-sufficiently with energy. Low water consumption is guaranteed by the hydroponic process and the optimal use of space through storey cultivation. Under the artificially created conditions, plants can be grown all year round. Light spectra of the light emitting diodes are controllable and influence the growth process, taste and size of the plants according to need and requirements. The closed systems have the advantage that they make agriculture independent of weather conditions," explains Jörg Trübl.
Conclusion: In-door systems protect resources, climate and environment - deliver directly on site
The goal of MABEWO AG is to work with the highly efficient and resource-saving production with the solar dome systems. The Green-Dome is there for the production of vegetables, fruit and food for the local market, the direct basic supply without long transport routes. "Agriculture 3.0" here means, for example, that herbs, roots, algae, salads, spinach and much more are produced directly in the Green-Dome system using the hydroponics process. The Aquaponics System stands for the combination of a hydroponics system with recirculation of the water used in connection with a fish breeding tank, for example for the production of native and tropical fish species, shrimps, crabs, mussels, algae and much more. The excrements of the fish farm serve as nutrients for the plants. The purified water is returned to the fish farm," environmental engineer Jörg Trübl explains.
In the long term, the installation of the Green Dome will prevent emissions, reduce water consumption, make optimum use of the area and achieve top quality products.