Since GrowGroup IFS signed an agreement in October 2017 for a project in Riyadh for the construction of the first large scale farm, business has accelerated, according to John. "Everyone was quite reserved about taking steps. They were waiting for a launching customer. There are vertical farm projects, but these are pilots or small projects. Vertical farming hadn't been used commercially in this manner before." The project developer receives various requests from Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and other GCC countries to talk about the new farms in the Middle East. In the farm being built in Riyadh, herbs and leafy vegetables will be grown on a large scale. A combination between vertical farming and flat farming will be used.
GrowGroup IFS takes the demands of the Arabs into consideration with their projects. Because the land in the Middle East is relatively cheap, the focus is being moved more towards flat farming - single layer farm, instead of going up.
Indoor farming in the Netherlands
When will indoor farming be set up in the Netherlands on a large scale in the market? "I believe that the commercial use of vertical farming also has a future in the Netherlands, but the cost price has to go down," John responds. "It's still very expensive to sell it on the Dutch market. It's still a considerable investment, which makes the cost price higher." Are Europeans prepared to pay this? The organic segment has been successfully marketed, but vertical farming is a step further. Because only stone wool and foam are used, it is possible to grow without any pesticides. There is a price tag attached. "It has to be marketed differently," he says.
Support among consumers
When asked how products from indoor farms will be received by consumers, John responds: "I think people will get used to it. Consumers have wanted rid of the grains of sands for a while and now it also has to be free of pesticides. I think the market is ripe for it, although it is dominated by retailers at the moment. As long as they determine the price, it is difficult for indoor farming to gain widespread support in the Netherlands."