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John Breedveld, GrowGroup I.F.S.:
Saudi Arabia "Vertical Farming alone is not sufficient"
"Vertical farming is remarkable - a very beautiful technique to which we, from the Netherlands, have made a significant contribution. But if the land is cheap, Vertical Farming alone will not be sufficient." That is what John Breedveld, who from GrowGroup IFS B.V. commits himself to the development of cultivation companies. "We are developing a project with Dutch technology and for that we look for a local partner or co-financing," he explains. And with success: The signatures for a new flat cultivation project have been obtained.
In the Middle East, demand for high-quality fresh produce is growing, but it is not easy to fulfill the demand. You have to deal with substantial transport distances, or you have to go and cultivate on site and because of water shortage and heat, this is not a simple issue. GrowGroup IFS specializes in this market as a project developer that, if so desired, also will remain responsible for the operational side after completion. They are doing this together with Dutch companies. The latest result of this is Green Factory - a 4,500m2 cultivation project in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
The client is an investment company that wants to implement this enhancement at a local farmer. Next year, the first spade must break ground. The desert ground, that is.
Striking about the project is the combination of cultivation methods. John explains that this is an important part of the profitability of projects. "Per project you have to ask yourself what the best combination is. In this project we are dealing with a cheap cost of land. The intensification of vegetable cultivation is mainly fueled by water conservation (in our case 95%). Then the question is why you would work vertically when the land does not cost anything”, he explains. "To work vertically, you will need an expensive structure. Flat cultivation, a single layer closed cultivation system, is more appealing in that case."
In the end, a combination was chosen: flat cultivation, vertical farming and a section of greenhouse. "The herb cultivation seems to be most profitable in a vertical farm. Because of the plant properties, it is possible to place the layers close together, and you can use the steel structure optimally. The leafy greens need more space above them, which are therefore grown in a flat cultivation", explains John. "Finally, we let the leafy plants in the greenhouse form heads. Under LED lighting, growing heads is difficult for some varieties: you need UV. So we move them to the greenhouse for the final growth stage." The greenhouse is not equipped with path cooling fans, but is equipped with advanced climate systems. "It's an expensive way of cooling”, John acknowledges. "Because of the overpressure, however, the greenhouse is completely closed and we can realize the same conditions as in the Vertical Farm. Hereby you maintain that quality and we produce 100% clean (pesticide-free) as that is important in these markets."
The project would become the first cultivation project on a commercial scale, initiated by Future Formation and GrowGroup IFS in Saudi Arabia. In October, the signatures were collected and when the detailed design plan with permits is complete, construction can start in 2018.
For more information:
GrowGroup IFS B.V.
Publication date: 11/21/2017
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