Just under a year ago, Bio-Planet first introduced its basil to the market. This came from this Belgian store's self-developed vertical farm. "This cultivation method differs from conventional farming. It requires less water and space and fewer nutrients. That results in herbs with tiny ecological footprints. For us, the story didn't end with sustainable basil. We now have the technique down for coriander. We've been selling this second vertically-farmed herb since 19 February. That's in the Bio-Planet webshop and 31 stores", says a representative from this supermarket chain.
"Consistent, year-round quality"
"The Colruyt Group is the only retailer in Belgium with its a self-developed vertical farm. It grew basil plants for Bio-Planet last year. That was in a closed system, in two rows, one above the other. The group could, therefore, test out its vertical farm for a year. That was in all aspects, from production through logistics to sales. And the results are impressive. In a challenging year, we managed to guarantee a stable production of quality basil plants", says Jan Van Holsbeke, Bio-Planet's Manager.
"The global pandemic ensured it wasn't the easiest test year. We had to scale up our vertical farm. That's was due to the increased sales in our stores. At the same time, this demonstrates the power of indoor multilayer cultivation. We can create the perfect growing conditions, regardless of the weather. That means the herbs have consistent, year-round quality. And we can match production to demand." And demand there certainly was. More people bought fresh basil from Bio-Planet last year than the previous year.
"Coriander with a tiny environmental footprint"
Bio-Planet sees potential in this new farming method. They can grow herbs with a minimal ecological footprint. "Up to 20 times less space is needed the same number of plants. They also need 50% fewer nutrients and 90% less water. The herbs are 100% pure too because no pesticides are used," adds the company spokesperson.
"We integrated the farm into one of the group's distribution centers. So, transportation was cut five-fold. The farm uses purified rainwater that's collected on the DC's roof. It has self-developed, energy-efficient LED lighting and an innovative ventilation system. These make the farm very energy efficient. Moreover, the system runs on 100% green electricity. This is generated by wind turbines and solar panels."
“All these factors make the farm and its herbs very sustainable. That's crucial for Bio-Planet. We want to offer our shoppers sustainable, local, innovative products. We think other herbs and even leafy green vegetables can be vertically-farmed too. This, however, requires more research and investment. Also, the technology has to be further developed," concludes Jan.