© ebm-papst Benelux

Artechno: Vertical farming with inno­v­a­tive cells

Vertical Farming is still in its infancy in many places, but if Artechno Growsys­tems has its way, this will soon change. The Dutch company invents and builds cells that grow lettuce, herbs and fruit in perfect condi­tions.

“In vertical farming, a controlled, climate-controlled envi­ron­ment provides ideal growing condi­tions,” explains Rudy van den Berg, respon­sible for marketing and commu­ni­ca­tion at Artechno Growsys­tems in Maas­dijk. “We are focusing on the devel­op­ment of inno­v­a­tive cells.” These are closed cham­bers of different sizes in which plants grow all year round. Instead of sunlight, these plants thrive in the light of LED lamps – at the perfect temper­a­ture and with a balanced humidity and water supply. “Every little plant gets exactly the same atten­tion, can grow perfectly and produce reli­able yields.” Artechno mainly wants to reach inno­v­a­tive farmers who are open to this new type of culti­va­tion.

Every little plant gets exactly the same atten­tion, can grow perfectly and produce reli­able yields.

Rudy van den Berg, Artechno Growsys­tems

Not only is the suste­nance of the plants almost completely auto­mated, but also the culti­va­tion process. For farmers, the advan­tage of this is that they save on labor costs. It also ensures that the plants grow undis­turbed, as there is no need for humans to get involved at all and no cont­a­m­i­na­tion is intro­duced into the sensi­tive system. The cells invented by Artechno have a modular design, which offers customers many advan­tages.

“They can adapt our cells to the needs of the partic­ular crop, the avail­able space and the desired produc­tion volume. They start with a few key compo­nents, for example, and can expand the vertical farm as required,” explains Rudy van den Berg.

From small cell to factory

(Photo | Artechno Growsys­tems)

The smallest cell that Artechno offers is only 15 square meters in size, meaning that it fits into virtu­ally any barn. If farmers want to grow more plants and increase their yields, they can line up several cells. If they add conveyor belts, washing stations and pack­aging lines, they have a “plant factory”.

From seedling to delivery, all the processes are auto­mated. This makes a culti­va­tion area of 9,600 square meters or more possible. The cells have auto­mated climate control systems for temper­a­ture, CO2, humidity and air flow. In addi­tion, they provide irri­ga­tion and supply the plants with nutri­ents. The light can also be controlled, depending on the desired spec­trum and inten­sity. As an option, the growth of the greenery can also be moni­tored using cameras as optical sensors.

Vertical agri­cul­ture as an industry

Aiming high in vertical farming

Effi­cient venti­lation, air condi­tioning and automa­tion with fans, blowers, drives and AGVs from ebm-papst.

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Rudy van den Berg also refers to Artechno’s cells as plant facto­ries: “It sounds very indus­trial, but more impor­tantly it makes it clear that the entire process happens in one place,” he says.

“Prefer­ably at a loca­tion close to distri­b­u­tion centers, from where the harvested plants can then be brought directly to the super­mar­kets. In terms of logis­tics, you save a lot of time and mileage compared to a field harvest.” According to Artechno, almost all crops are suit­able for vertical culti­va­tion, espe­cially lettuce, herbs, seedlings and berries.

“The land or region where the cells will be located often deter­mines what is prof­itable for the farmer. You can often achieve a better and more consis­tent price in places where tradi­tional culti­va­tion of the crop is diffi­cult, for example.”

Salads are partic­u­larly suit­able for vertical culti­va­tion. (Photo | Artechno Growsys­tems)

Optimum growing climate with the RadiPac

The growing climate natu­rally plays a crucial role in the cells devel­oped by Artechno. Perfect venti­lation is crucial for growth – and it was moving air that brought the company into contact with ebm-papst. Rick van Oost­erom, sales repre­sen­ta­tive at ebm-papst Benelux, explains: “In October 2020, we made contact – we presented our range of motors and fans to Artechno.

It turned out that they were buying a ready-made venti­lation unit and installing it in the cells. But they wanted to change that, so we worked together as part­ners and experts in our respec­tive fields to find a new solu­tion.” ebm-papst Benelux offered an alter­na­tive fan that performed signif­i­cantly better than the previous solu­tion, both in economic and ecolog­ical terms. But Artechno was not yet fully convinced.

The RadiPac C provides perfect venti­lation for optimum growth. (Images | Artechno Growsys­tems)

Instead of three different fan types with different oper­ating points, they wanted to use just one model in the cells that would effi­ciently cover all three oper­ating points. “That was quite a chal­lenge. Our first choice would have been the AxiEco, but as Artechno controls the air volume via a differ­en­tial pres­sure measure­ment, the only option was a centrifugal fan.” They opted for the new RadiPac C. “It was the perfect solu­tion, both econom­i­cally and with regard to effi­ciency. It can keep the air quality in the green­house at an optimum level,” explains Rick van Oost­erom. Thanks to its EC motor, the fan can contin­u­ously adopt different oper­ating points and always works at an effi­cient optimum.

The Radipac C was the perfect solu­tion, both econom­i­cally and with regard to effi­ciency.

Rick van Oost­erom, sales repre­sen­ta­tive at ebm-papst Benelux

Now the fans ensure a perfect air flow that allows the plants to grow opti­mally. Depending on the design, between 12 and 24 fans are installed in the Artechno cell. “Every crop needs a specific micro­cli­mate,” explains Rudy van den Berg. “We have to monitor this closely. Mold is always a risk of culti­va­tion, but with a controlled and flex­ible air flow, we can completely rule it out.”

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