Feature: Europe's largest vertical farm opens in Denmark

Source: Xinhua| 2020-12-08 23:38:00|Editor: huaxia

by David A. Williams

COPENHAGEN, Dec. 8 (Xinhua) -- The future of farming in Denmark may well be shaped by a 14-story, 7,000-square-meter warehouse facility on the outskirts of Copenhagen, where leaf crops are being grown in vertically stacked layers in a controlled environment.

Unlike in traditional farming, there is a very sterilized feel about the entire production process designed by Nordic Harvest, a vertical farming company based in Denmark.

The vertical farm is the brainchild of Anders Riemann, chief executive officer (CEO) of Nordic Harvest, who relied on the proprietary technologies of the YesHealth Group from China's Taiwan. Robotics, hydroponic systems, arrays of more than 20,000 LEDs (light-emitting diodes), and smart software enable the operators to hold 15 "vertical farm harvests" a year compared to two on traditional farms.

The facility will be hermetically sealed when fully operational and only five specialists and 15 unskilled operators will be allowed to enter dressed in protective clothing.

Several robots will be employed to move the shelves into position and to stack the produce. The robots already operational carry out their duties while traditional Chinese music emanates from their speakers.

"It is relaxing music and research has shown that if you play relaxing music for the plants they will de-stress and will grow better," Riemann explained to Xinhua. The music is also "relaxing for the Chinese operators", he said, plus they get alerted when a robot is on the move.

"Lots of vertical farms in the world will never be profitable," Riemann said, because the design, workflow and technology are so complex that they chip away at profitability.

"But I also understand that the best way to make a profit is to automate the workflow and that consumers are willing to pay a higher price for a higher quality product."

According to Nordic Harvest, their vertical farm is a tailor-made solution that makes what they produce cost less and taste better.

"Currently, we are producing salads and herbs, but in five years there will be room for plants with edible roots, and potatoes in seven years and maybe cucumbers in ten years," Riemann said.

Breeding companies have yet to develop varieties specifically for vertical farming, he said, so the more research goes into the vertical farm the better the chances are for making a profit.

Nordic Harvest never uses artificial fertilizers, genetic splices, pesticides or other toxic chemicals. They also claim that water consumption is reduced by 90-95 percent compared to traditional farming, and that there is no water wasted during production.

"Nordic Harvest's vertical farm will be able to supply 1,000 metric tons of salads and herbs a year, when fully expanded, on an area corresponding to a large football pitch," said the CEO.

"This means that with just 20 production facilities, all of Denmark's annual consumption could be covered in an area equivalent to 20 football pitches."

Riemann is convinced that vertical farming significantly reduces the environmental footprint of agricultural production and that the ability to use significantly less land to achieve the same crop output would make destructive modern farming techniques redundant.

"It is a good thing that people live in cities and if we can stop disturbing nature the balance will be much better."

Nordic Harvest is expected to start full production in the first quarter of 2021. Enditem