Producing food anywhere, anytime. That is the promise of vertical farming. A promise that is relevant now more than ever due to fast-growing cities, climate change, but also situations like the invasion of Ukraine. This also applies to the mission of the Indoor Farming Nederland community.
"In order to seize the commercial opportunities of vertical farming, we need to raise our profile abroad, conduct research, communicate with consumers, and provide education. The needs of entrepreneurs are central to our community. We have been working on this for years. The results can be seen during GreenTech 2022, among others," says Anne-Claire van Altvorst of InnovationQuarter, initiator of the community.
It all started with a meeting in 2016. The purpose of this well-attended meeting was to raise awareness of the opportunities of vertical farming for the Dutch business community. "With this meeting, we wanted to reach companies that are involved in vertical farming as growers, suppliers, or new players. The Indoor Farming Netherlands community was set up to help them make a success of this. After six years of intensive cooperation and knowledge pooling from all participating parties, including InnovationQuarter, Greenport West-Holland, and Dutch GreenHouse Delta (DGD), we support each other where it counts."
Power of connection
When asked how the community does this, Van Altvorst answers that the main focus is on establishing connections between initiatives. "In this way, these initiatives strengthen and accelerate each other. For example, we are working with the international interest group Farm Tech Society on the programming for GreenTech. With the World Horti Centre, we are producing a webinar series, and with Greenport West-Holland, we are working on a sustainable future for the sector. In addition, companies from the community, together with Dutch Greenhouse Delta and InnovationQuarter, put the theme of indoor farming on the agenda during the World Expo in Dubai. The power of connection is gaining more and more substance.
Indoor Farming Nederland is in the hands of a well-cooperating team that, besides initiator Anne-Claire van Altvorst (InnovationQuarter), consists of Judith van Heck and Gus van der Feltz. Judith has been engaged as a community builder for the vertical farming theme. Gus is the project manager of the Vertical Farming Fieldlab. Van Altvorst: "We complement each other and thus offer a broad, supportive range."
The community has a private group - Indoor Farming Nederland - of more than two hundred members on LinkedIn. Van Altvorst: "In this community, we offer everyone who is active in indoor farming a place to share their insights, questions, or activities. Share in order to multiply. The needs of entrepreneurs are central in this."
During the Covid period, it was more challenging to fulfill this mission, but in the meantime, the community has made a fresh start. "That is another reason why it was high time to make ourselves heard again because our mission has only become more relevant in the meantime. Not only for Dutch companies but also in the context of producing food anytime, anywhere."
In the community, the interests of the companies are therefore central. This is why, after the first meeting, Anne-Claire drew up an inventory of exactly what companies need in order to make use of the opportunities offered by vertical farming. The answers to this question form the basis of the activities of and in the community.
"Those needs turned out to be diverse. A good example is the need for the international promotion of Dutch products and the cultivation of knowledge in countries such as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. These countries want to be more self-sufficient, are looking for new business models, and are very interested in vertical farming."
This is why Anne-Claire, together with Dutch Greenhouse Delta (DGD), developed a Partners for International Business (PIB) program for the Gulf region, a public-private partnership for projects by Dutch companies abroad.
"The consortium includes eighteen companies in greenhouse construction, plant engineering, seed breeding, and vertical farming. There, we enter into discussions with investors and government delegations who want to know how to produce safe and healthy food. Vertical farming will not change the world in the Netherlands but will in the Gulf region, the US, Japan, and Singapore.
Another way to become more visible internationally is through the ∑-Grow Pavilion in the World Horti Centre in Naaldwijk.
"That is why we took the initiative to apply for a subsidy for this. The pavilion tells the story of Dutch high-tech horticulture, a story about producing sustainable, healthy, safe, and sufficient food in both greenhouses and indoor farms without daylight."
The pavilion has been realized in cooperation with a group of participants who have made a solid contribution in terms of both content and finance. The program attracts investors, governments but also retailers, for example. Meanwhile, the participants meet regularly to share knowledge and experience.
A great deal is already known about vertical farming, but there is also a great deal that is not yet known. After all, indoor farming is still a fairly new segment. The interaction between plants and technology, in particular, requires new knowledge.
"That is why we have set up the Fieldlab Vertical Farming. We did that together with frontrunner companies like Logiqs, Future Crops, Own Greens, Signify, and Vertify. We have also done this together with Delphy Improvement Centre, InHolland, WUR Glasshouse Horticulture, and Greenport HortiCampus. In the future, for example, research will be done into the control of contents in plants."
Communication and education
Communication about indoor farming to consumers is also an important topic for the community. Van Altvorst: "A group of students from InHolland is researching this together with Dutch indoor farmers. What appeals to consumers, and where are the concerns? Meanwhile, HAS Den Bosch and InHolland have developed a training course on managing indoor farms. This is a response to the need for more professionals who can work in indoor farms.
Do you want to know what our community can do for you?
- Visit our events during GreenTech 2022, from 14-16 June 2022, in Amsterdam.
- Sign up for the next meeting of our community. This will take place on 7 July 2022.
- Join our LinkedIn group, where more than two hundred members exchange knowledge and experiences on a daily basis, https://www.linkedin.com/groups/13917547/.
Want to know more first? Then contact Anne-Claire, Judith, or Gus:
- Anne-Claire van Altvorst, senior business developer horticulture: +31 6 122 27038, Annefirstname.lastname@example.org
- Judith van Heck, community builder Indoor Farming Netherlands: +31 6 26 69 67 52, email@example.com
- Gus van der Feltz, project leader Fieldlab Vertical Farming, firstname.lastname@example.org