© Artisan Green

Fresh vegeta­bles from the heart of the city

Artisan Green grows leafy vegeta­bles in the middle of Singa­pore. In the company’s vertical gardening farm, it is growing spinach and other leafy vegeta­bles under controlled condi­tions. A special air filter with EC fan produces the ideal climate for the young green plants.

Those who visit Jaime Tan at his place of work can’t believe what they see. Tan works for Artisan Green and the company culti­vates spinach, baby kale, and herbs. However, you will not find any fields here. Instead, the General Manager’s desk is located on the fourth floor of a commer­cial building in Singa­pore. Growing vegeta­bles in the middle of the city? Jaime Tan laughs and explains, “We specialize in hydro­ponics. The roots of our plants are not in the ground but are suspended in a nutrient solu­tion, which contains a mixture of water and dissolved nutri­ents. They grow in plant racks instead of on farm­land.”

This is also one of the major advan­tages of vertical gardening: it saves a lot of space. This means that the method fits perfectly into the densely popu­lated metrop­olis Singa­pore and with the “30 by 30” program. With this initia­tive, the govern­ment of the city state intends to cover around a third of the food demand with local food prod­ucts by 2030. With the motto “from lab to table,” it subsi­dizes inno­v­a­tive ideas. Ideas such as the busi­ness model of Artisan Green, which was launched in 2018.

A staff member of Artisan Green checks the growth of his green protégés in the vertical gardening farm in Singa­pore. (Photo: Artisan Green)

Less is more

Jaime Tan explains: “Our farm is a labo­ra­tory where we can try out how we can opti­mize produc­tion. It is still not about large quan­ti­ties.” Artisan Green is still growing: initially, the team harvested around eight kilo­grams of baby spinach per week, now it is harvesting as much as 60 to 70 kilo­grams. In addi­tion, the area avail­able for growing prod­ucts has been expanded from 10 to 60 percent. The product range has also grown: in addi­tion to spinach, it is now also growing red baby kale, dill and cilantro. Basil, thyme and sage are to follow.

You can buy the leafy vegeta­bles in various super­mar­kets in Singa­pore. “At the begin­ning, some customers were crit­ical and thought that many chem­i­cals would be used for indoor planting. The oppo­site is the case. The plants are protected from pests, so we do not need pesti­cides.” And they also live up to outdoor vari­eties in terms of taste. Hydro­ponics also saves water: the nutrient solu­tion is filtered and then reused. In other words, it is a closed cycle.

A sensi­tive matter

Before Jaime Tan leads visi­tors through produc­tion, they all have to put on protec­tive clothing. If germs or impu­ri­ties get into the closed space, it can impair growth or even destroy the entire harvest. “The system is very sensi­tive. Even slight fluc­tu­a­tions in temper­a­ture, humidity, pH value or the nutrient mixture have a direct impact on the growth of the plants,” explains Tan and points to the metal racks where their deli­cate baby spinach and red baby kale are sprouting, under arti­fi­cial light and in optimum condi­tions. The team researched these condi­tions over the past year. “We already know a lot but are getting to know our plants and their needs better and better,” says Tan.

Tiny spoil­sports

Partic­ular atten­tion is paid to the air quality in the farm. After all, this is what largely decides whether spinach and other leafy vegeta­bles will grow as they should. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as hydro­car­bons, alco­hols and organic acids, play a crit­ical role here. The parti­cles are a few microm­e­ters in size and are always present in indoor air. If their concen­tra­tion is too high, they can influ­ence plant growth and the maturing process. A mobile air filter regu­lates the VOC levels.

The system is very sensi­tive. Even slight fluc­tu­a­tions in temper­a­ture or humidity have a direct impact on plant growth.

Jaime Tan, General Manager at Artisan Green

Good air for fresh vegeta­bles

The RadiCal can hack it: the mobile air filter required a high perfor­mance in a small space. (Photo: Artisan Green)

Jaime Tan walks over to the 500 by 920 millimeter metal cube on rollers located in one of the aisles. “We devel­oped the device specially for this task. We use an acti­vated carbon filter through which a fan blows the ambient air. Our filter supplier recom­mended ebm-papst,” recalls Tan. All parties involved worked closely together when devel­oping and designing the filter unit.

Senior design and appli­ca­tion engi­neer Mr. Hiew Chung Ka from ebm-papst in Singa­pore visited Artisan Green and recom­mended a RadiCal EC centrifugal fan with a diam­eter of 280 millime­ters. “The air filter unit must fit into the narrow aisles, so there is limited space. With its compact design and high perfor­mance, the RadiCal was a perfect fit,” he recalls. “Together with Jaime Tan and his devel­op­ment team, we looked at how much space we needed around the fan. This resulted in an optimum aero­dy­namic design for the air filter unit.”

The fan is currently running at 50 percent of its maxi­mum speed, which is suffi­cient for the current growing space. If the farm expands, the speed can be increased. Tan and his team noticed imme­di­ately after it was first used, “It is very quiet! Our air filter is an impor­tant but also incon­spic­uous element in our farm.” He adds with a laugh, “We have not had to do anything for it since it arrived. It is doing its job!” It is not only Jaime Tan who is pleased: the plants are also thriving on their shelves. 


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