PlantLab can obtain its patent on indoor farming, described by the company as a 'closed plant nursery system'. Since 2008, the company has been defending this patent at the European Patent Office (EPO), with Philips Lighting and Certhon as their major opponents. Last Wednesday the EPO decided that the PlantLab patent can be sustained.
Plantlab filed the patent on their indoor farming solution in 2008. According to them, they invented the method of growing plants in a fully or partly closed environment with the help of supplemental lighting and in which the rootzone temperature of the plant is controlled. It interesting that the company has succesfully defended their patent this week, since many of the vertical, indoor, container and even aquaponic greenhouses apply a similar method. Will this mean that PlantLab owned the indoor farming boom?
Theoretically yes, practically not. "If you grow lettuce underneath LEDs you do not infringe our patent. But when you grow lettuce under leds on aquaponics and you are controlling the growth by influencing the both crop, environment and rootzone temperature, you do infringe our patent", said Marcel Kers of PlantLab.
Such situations might occur when you grow in a multilayer setting and the radiation of the LEDs influence the rootzone temperature of the layer above. Can growers who apply this method expect an invoice from Plantlab soon? "We are looking for a cooperation with some large players in the world. It is a pity that we needed to go through this procedure to come to this point, but it does confirm that we have a case and that some players will need to talk to us."
These players might be Delicious, Certhon and Philips. Plantlab was working with Delicious on a large multilayer lettuce indoor farm in Holland, but the group got broiled and Plantlab stepped out of the project. According to Plantlab, the climate chamber of Delicious infringes their patent. Reason for Certhon, the designer and manufacturer of the project, and LED supplier Philips to fight the case.
Certhon is not worried about the outcome of the patent lawsuit. "We are surprised by this news. In a previous judgement, the original patent on indoor farming by Plantlab was voided. Only a watered down version of this original patent is still applicable, but only in a few very specific cases. We are happy with this outcome", said Certhon in a statement.
Plantlab has it patent registered in 73 countries worldwide. In the U.S. their patent is currently pending.