“Ultimately, the problem we have on this planet isn’t about feeding people with salad, but feeding them with commodity items, such as soy, wheat and rice,” says Tristan Fischer, CEO of Fischer Farms.
Fischer Farms, an English farming company that uses automation for CEA farms which allows them to grow food year-round. Currently, Fischer is constructing a new farm which will be located in Easton, which is located in southeast England. The 25.000m2 farm will produce 72.000 bags of salads per day, which translates into 6.5 tons of salad per day. Adding the planned building expansion, the volume will get close to 210.000 bags of salads per day.
Introducing commodity products
Fischer will be starting off with leafy greens, salads and herbs. Over time, they’ll be selling crops at the same price as field-grown crops, while giving the benefits of vertical farming at the same price point. “As operation costs go down over time, we’ll be building more farms that are cheaper to construct through efficiency. Then we’re going into products like soft fruit.
In a 10-15 year period of time Fischer Farms is hoping to cultivate rice, wheat and soy in huge vertical farms that are connected to huge wind and solar farms. In this way, the company can provide low-cost electricity, since that's the bulk of their costs. “It will make us able to look at commodity products like rice, wheat and soy. As we do so, we can ultimately feed the world.”
Adding automation, reducing OPEX
The Easton-based farm will be highly automated. The first phase of the farm comprises 25.000m2 of growing space, which is run by seven people. Once the extension farm is added, which comprises 50.000m2, the farm will be operated by an additional 10 people.
“We’re getting the benefits of automation and scale. That’s why we’re constantly looking at automating processes, to reduce the cost of the facility and reduce the ‘more boring aspects of farming’. There’s a lot of manual labor out in the field, whereas all manual labor in our farms is done by machines. Most of the workforce in our farms are skilled. We invest in our team to give them the skills they need for the job.”
Once the 25.000m2 farm is constructed, the team will evaluate all components to see what can be improved or not, so the feedback can be taken onto the next scaling stage of 50.000m2. Therefore, it’s very likely that the next 20.000-50.000 will be quickly added after that, extending the farm.
Tristan notes that there’s a lot of efficiency on the automation side. “Especially when buying one set of equipment that can always do more. Once you’re buying lots of equipment in larger amounts, prices will be lower as well. Capital costs can be reduced by having a larger system and the operation costs are reduced by having a large system as well. Which is what you’d expect in any larger-sized farm.”
Covering the bills with renewables
The company was looking at a range of locations that have access to renewable energy, such as solar- and wind power. Given that opportunity, Fischer Farms will have access to 60 Megawatt in total with 30 Megawatt of wind power and 30 Megawatt of solar power.
“We should be able to cover most of the energy per year. Renewables will help to obtain a sustainable production level. Renewable connections, which is a private wire, keep our costs down compared to what you’d be buying from the grid.”
A growing niche
Tristan says that vertical farming products are still seen as a niche market. Once Fischer has reached a larger production volume, people will hear more about vertical farming and the benefits of it, claims Tristan.
The number of salads going into the market will educate society on the benefits of vertical farming. “We believe it will be the same transition as the organic market. First, there wasn’t a lot of supply, but once more players came in and people had tried it, demand grew.”
For more information:
Kyla Flynn, PR and Social Media Manager
+44 (0)1622 816 999