Indoor AgTech spoke to Patrik Borenius, CEO at Green Automation Americas about achieving the right production costs in the industry, learnings of indoor farming in Finland and how this can be replicated on a global scale.
In Finland, locally-grown produce from your indoor farming facility has become the norm in food retail, to a large extent replacing field grown produce. How have you achieved this, and could your strategy be replicated in the US?
Making greenhouse grown leafy greens the norm in Finland was not due to one specific factor, but a function of striving for highest efficiency in all areas. I mentioned earlier how crucial the plant density is as well as the importance in keeping labor costs down. These are factors driven by the efficiency of the growing system inside the greenhouse. The one common denominator and used almost exclusively in greenhouses in Finland is the “automated NFT moving gutters system”. The floating raft systems account for less than 1% of the growing area and there are no relevant commercial vertical farm operators.
In addition, greenhouse operations in Finland are typically not ultra-local in urban areas, but generally located a few hours outside the cities. These strategic site decisions have been made to keep land, labor and energy cost-effective. Operations are often deliberately located right next to a large direct use energy/heat source and land needs to be plentiful for large operations, typically 10 acres or more.
In conclusion, the formula is utilizing a highly efficient growing system combined with a strategic placement of the facility where land, energy and labor is available at low cost. Finally exploring economies of scale by growing these facilities into very large operations is necessary. All of these aspects can largely be applied to the US as well.
Finnish growers have also been successful in moving the consumer’s demand to a lettuce product that is very favorable for greenhouse cultivation in terms of the variety, the size it is grown to and the type of packaging it is sold in. Varieties that are more difficult or less efficient to cultivate in a greenhouse such as spinach play a small role in the market. This will be more difficult to apply to the US. I would expect that US consumers will continue to demand the level of variety they enjoy today.