Growing strawberries in the basement of a block of flats

Russia: City farming in Tomsk

The Orlov family started an unusual business two years ago. Despite Siberian frosts, they successfully grow strawberries year-round with the help of their own engineering inventions.

In the basement of a regular 5-storeyed block of flats, the city farmers grow their berries, without a single ray of sunshine and natural warmth.

“The agricultural method is based on hydroponics and aeroponics”, explains Alexander Orlov, demonstrating the small farming facility. “These are important factors, but lighting is even more vital. The technology was worked out by my son; it is his know-how that formed the basis of our business”.

The family have various technical devices, but the main factor is lighting, due to which the berries get all the needed warmth and light for growth, aroma and color.

The inventive son, Kirill Orlov, is a professional engineer, who specialized in applied mathematics in Tomsk University. His lamps allow for reduced energy consumption and stabilize the temperature regime. One lamp lasts 7.5 days, if used 18 hours a day. With these lamps, strawberries grow and ripen faster, productivity increases up to four times.

“I had already retired when one day my son came and suggested growing strawberries. He experimented with light before and grew greenery like onions, parsley and spinach quite successfully. The volume wasn’t big and nobody had thought he was going to start big production”, shares the father, Alexander Orlov.

The local government supported the idea; they liked the systematic approach and the idea of growing and selecting strawberries in Tomsk all year round. The first grant that was received for the complex creation came from the local government. Currently the growers have three rooms, two of which are occupied with beds for 3000 berry bushes and various systems, and the third one contains the enterprise management system: water conditioning, fertigation and irrigation unit and other equipment.

“We get a lot of positive feedback from customers on our Instagram page, both private persons and restaurant business representatives. Parents write that they are happy that our strawberries cause no allergic reaction with children”, shares Mrs. Alla Orlova.

“Our dream is to create the best greenhouse not only in Siberia but also in the world”, shares Kirill. “We have an opportunity to pick a suitable land plot for the construction and we want to show that Siberia can boast the most advanced agricultural technologies and contemporary profitable greenhouses. Any plant can be grown with our technology, not only strawberries but also greenery and tulips that we purchase in huge amounts form the Netherlands. I feel we can do it with the support of the family. Further development will be related to expansion of our interest and gradual fulfillment of the plans”.

The vegetation period in Orlov’s greenhouse lasts 45 days, after which harvesting is done every day all year round. 40 thousand bushes can produce 40-60 tons of berries per year.


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