“We’ve seen a growing demand for vertical farming seeds in the past year. We are a very good breeder for herbs, which is a huge part of the demand of Vertical Farms, so we decided to build an offer dedicated to Vertical Farm growers, with selected varieties and seed quality and sustainability that meet their needs,” says Solène Voltz, in charge of the Vertical Farming department development.
Graines Voltz was founded in 1985 in Colmar, France, starting as a seed dealer for flowers, then herbs and vegetables. Up until now, the company counts 400 employees, which are mostly spread over Europe.
Two years ago, Graines Voltz acquired Hild Samen, which was part of the BASF group. Hild has been a herbs breeder since 1919, and it has now opened the door for vertical farming. After some years working hand in hand with various vertical farming companies on different continents, a variety of products were rolled out to meet the demand for vertical farms.
The office in Brain, France, where summer trials are held for customers to demonstrate products to customers
"Seeds must be the first priority"
The team sees that knowledge of seeds and varieties is often not the main focus of vertical farming growers: "Some growers seem to buy seeds on any corner of the streets. In order to have the best outcome, they should look at the seed quality, sustainability, and variety,” Solène adds.
“When lacking direct contact with a supplier, growers are left in the dark on whether seeds are washed or examined for diseases, for example. This results in a lot of insecurity and potential crop loss. Therefore, we really wish to bring our seeds to vertical farming as we make them suitable for any growing envelope. We’ll walk the growers through every process, paperwork, export, and so on.”
Most teams behind vertical farms have a lot of knowledge on technology, fertilizing, lights, and so on. “However, I think there’s a need for education on seed use. Graines Voltz can offer excellent seed quality. We want to emphasize the extra value of seeds we can offer, not just genetics. It’s possible for us to visit farms ourselves so we can sit down with growers and find out what they exactly need,” adds Wolfgang Fischer, International sales manager at Graines Voltz.
New farm for R&D purposes
The company is more active now with more crop varieties as they have broad access to breeders globally, which allows them to provide growers with a full assortment. This year, the team has been doing lots of internal research to analyze the market needs and to be able to provide what is expected, and more.
They are working on opening their own vertical farm R&D station in their breeding farm in Germany so they can start R&D projects to improve seed quality and constantly learn about the right growing environment for every crop. Wolfgang notes that “for products such as strawberries, we’d recommend going to existing breeders that have been specializing in that area, but for herbs, come to us for sure.”
A screenshot from the product folder
Solène explains that the company mostly works with smaller growers. Since these farmers want lots of different crops to grow, Graines Voltz has built a very diversified product portfolio over the years with about 30 000 varieties today. "Once the bigger farms got wind of that, they requested our seeds, alongside bacteria testing of the seeds and shipping."
After the increasing requests, the company decided to create a specialized team to meet the demand and requests of farmers. With their brochure, which covers all seeds available when it comes to herbs, farmers can plan brainstorm sessions to find the right growing recipe. “Since we have a team behind our vertical farming branch, we are now fully entering the market. When we see a trend in specific products, and thus a growing demand, the R&D team will anticipate these varieties. If some horticulture or floriculture seeds seem suitable for the vertical farming space, trials will be kicked off to analyze the potential,” Solène notes.
The company’s specialty products are herbs and leafy greens. “We’re on the top level of herb breeding activities. Since vertical farmers mainly worked with aromatics and leafy greens, like lettuce, this is the main business for now,” explains Wolfgang. There is more discussion about what can be added to the portfolio, but that is for the R&D processes.
Herbs are the first step for Graines Voltz in vertical farming, as they have the most experience in cleaning, producing, and supplying those. “We learned that in vertical farms, it's 365 days of production a year, meaning that seeds always have to be on demand. Given we basically can provide any herb for horticulture and floriculture, we can provide anything for vertical farmers as well,” Solène adds.
For more information:
Wolfgang Fischer, International sales manager
Solène Voltz, Vertical Farming development