Billa has recently started testing "Vertical Farming" - a concept for local food production in urban areas in which vegetables grow more in height than in width to save space. The cooperation partner for this is the Israeli agricultural technology company Vertical Field. The pilot project is the Billa Plus store at Wienerberg Strasse 27 in Vienna's 10th district. There, herbs and lettuces are grown and harvested from native seedlings in a shipping container. A second container is planned to be set up around Vienna this year, and others could follow - if the pilot project is successful.
In vertical farming, the plants are grown on top of each other on several levels and sold directly in the market after harvesting. Approximately 2,000 to 3,000 units can be produced per container per month. This means that the associated market can be supplied almost daily with fresh herbs and salads from the container. The starting assortment is currently parsley, basil, coriander, oak leaf lettuce as well as lollo lettuce - all harvested products are sold with soil press cubes (for longer shelf life).
Green into the future
"Vertical farming is a forward-looking idea for offering food as fresh as possible. At Billa, we are increasingly looking at alternative concepts and ideas to support sustainable ways of food production or - as in this case - to follow them ourselves. Vertical farming means optimal crop yields on the smallest possible area and only a few meters to the shelf," explains Billa Sales Director Eric Scharnitz. And: "This increases supply security, and our customers can look forward to local assortments - grown throughout the year and literally right on our doorstep."
The pilot container started its growing cycle at the end of July, with the first harvest targeted for the second half of August. From then on, fresh vegetables will also be available in the Billa Plus market. The year-round anti-cyclical cultivation works by means of 16-hour lighting with LED lamps, a climate control system that ensures the optimum temperature and humidity in the room, and a dedicated water and nutrient supply for the plants. The climate-friendly effects of this: 90% less water consumption, 50% less CO2 emissions, and 30 times less space required than when growing on the ground. The protected environment also eliminates the need for pesticides.
"I think we all need to think about how to ensure food for a growing world population in the future, while at the same time harvest yields are decreasing due to soil sealing, monocultures, the use of chemicals, and the consequences of climate change," Ronen Redel, VP Business Development at Vertical Field emphasizes.