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First commercial vertical farm in Amsterdam to expandJohn Apesos and engineer Jens Rahman are the entrepreneurs behind GROWx, a business focusing on vertical farming solutions. GROWx's mission is to accelerate the transition to sustainable urban agriculture. Their first operation, located in Amsterdam, covers a production area of 250 m2 (2,700 ft2) that is soon to be extended to 1300 m2 (14,000 ft2).
Vertical farming with a clear objective
John Apesos: "As the world population continues to grow and more and more people move to the major cities, we need to change the way in which food is produced. How can we reduce our impact on the environment? Can we keep on importing fruit and vegetables from Spain or Italy, even when our fossil fuels are gone? GROWx's mission is to accelerate the transition to sustainable urban agriculture. Our first, commercially oriented, vertical farm in Amsterdam allows us to grow fresh produce extremely close to customers all year round. Our high-quality lettuces and herbs are grown to order for restaurants and hotels in Amsterdam. In this way, we're redefining fresh food for the Amsterdam area. It's a first small step towards sustainable agriculture."
"Our aim is to produce a premium local product using vertical farming methods. Our concept and the technology involved are partly derived from the aerospace industry. After all, in a space capsule you have an extremely limited amount of space. We have designed a very compact and modular concept that is suitable for even the smallest space in a building. This can give a building a whole new lease on life. Here in Amsterdam we've applied this concept in a space of 250 square metres, soon to be extended to 1300 square metres, where we grow a wide variety of herbs and lettuces."
Fully controlled environment
There are fewer variables to consider in a vertical farm than in a conventional greenhouse. "I never have to worry about the weather. Whether it's windy, raining or the sun is shining brightly... I just go to the office. That's a wonderful feeling." So how do we manage that? We create the ideal climate conditions in a fully controlled environment. This mainly involves cooling the building to the desired temperature. In these conditions, we can grow all sorts of produce based on local needs. Another benefit is that we do not require pesticides or other chemicals.”
GROWx's vertical farm puts sustainability first. John Apesos: "We use the latest and most energy efficient LED technology to provide the plants with sufficient light. What's more, all our electricity comes from wind power and is therefore 100% green. The unique growing system that we've designed allows us to reuse water efficiently, resulting in water savings of up to 95%. However, when looking at sustainability you need to consider the entire chain." He continues: "Given our extreme proximity to customers, we require 98% less transportation. In addition, our emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases are non-existent. This makes a significant contribution to sustainable growing."
The next phase for GROWx is to make its products more competitive in the market. This means reducing costs and increasing efficiency. John Apesos: "The top chefs and restaurants that we focus on are mainly concerned with standing out in terms of taste and quality. But that's not to say that price isn't a key factor. It needs to be right. In addition to lowering costs, we will need to scale up production to turn sustainability into profitability. There is so much interest in our concept. Here in the Amsterdam region I'm sure we will succeed. Then we can continue rolling out our concept to other cities in Holland and ultimately abroad."
Expertise and technology
John Apesos is from the US: "My initial plan was to set up the business in the US given the number of people you can reach. But developing new concepts requires a lot of know-how and experience. In Holland there is a wealth of expertise and innovative knowledge. Time and again Holland has proved to be the cradle of food innovation. It's all thought up here, from seed development to LED lighting. John adds: "The challenge with our vertical farm is controlling the power and water consumption. We chose HortiMaX to provide the technology for our vertical farm. They not only supplied the process computer and sensors, but also the fertigation and water disinfection systems. They worked with us closely and literally helped us step by step in devising a solution that was right for us. HortiMaX can draw on years of knowledge and expertise in such areas. They were also able to recommend other partners to us."
For more information:
T: +31(0)15 3620300
F: +31(0)15 3693038
Publication date: 7/18/2017
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