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Ali Ahmadian, Heliospectra

"Vertical farming is a viable solution for urban environments"

Heliospectra CEO Ali Ahmadian will join AVF at Urban Future Global Conference to provide a keynote speech on May 22. AVF’s Head of Science and Education Ramin Ebrahimnejad sat down with Mr. Ahmadian to learn more about the company and their vision for the future of lighting control in vertical farming.

What are the key factors to operating a successful vertical farm?
I think the two key factors for creating a successful and profitable vertical farm are 1) the choice of crop and 2) the choice of technology.

Today, vertical farms have proven success with a wide variety of herbs, lettuce or leafy greens and berries as these crops respond well in compact production areas with artificial lighting. And it is exciting to see many of these operations as well as research organisations like NASA and DLR’s EDEN ISS push the envelope with successful cultivation of even more vegetables and seed varieties. Vertical farmers know well that the only constant is change and we see vertical farming operations rapidly diversifying the types of crops they are taking to retail markets.

Choosing proven technologies that deliver reliable control and crop performance is essential. Growers and vertical farmers need to recognise that lighting controls and environmental controls, or the lack thereof, impact businesses’ ability to deliver consistent, highest quality produce to market, harvest after harvest. Predictable, repeatable production cycles and consistent crop results rely on a solid control system to ensure predictable and stable revenue streams for the business.

How important are associations like AVF for growing the industry?
AVF and other partner associations are important because they provide standardised guidelines, best practices and collaboration opportunities for established growers and, also for new businesses who may be interested in starting up a vertical farm. AVF represents and advocates on behalf of a huge community of professionals and experts. The knowledge that this community shares with each other ensures the future and the success of the vertical farming and horticulture industries. And most importantly AVF helps businesses and the supply companies like Heliospectra attract new scientists, product developers and technologists who will create the new growing environments, cultivation methods and innovations for future generations.

Can you evaluate the importance of UFGC in regard to connecting vertical farming with decision makers?
The Urban Future Growing Conference is an opportunity to demonstrate the difference that vertical farming and indoor farming applications are making in communities across the globe. We need to show urban planners and city planners that vertical farming is a viable solution for urban environments and that it will provide significant contributions and fresh, sustainably grown and nutritious food supplies back to local communities. My expectation is that we as an industry and as business decision makers can partner with AVF and other UFGC participants to create a new mindset or type of thinking. We share a vision that local communities will benefit from better quality crops and produce, that businesses and vertical farms will create local jobs, that industry will collaborate with universities to create more educational opportunities and vocational training programs, and that we as a society can reduce carbon footprint worldwide while securing our future food supply.

Read the full interview here.

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