Staay Food Group has decided to start a large-scale pilot project in its convenience factory in Dronten, where fruit and vegetables are processed into e.g. pre-packed salads. There are many benefits of growing, harvesting and processing within a single building. For instance, consumers receive extremely fresh products, which have a longer shelf-life because processing is accelerated and transport is eliminated. In addition, there is no need to use pesticides because products are grown in an enclosed environment. Water is also used very efficiently during the cultivation process, which means the product is extremely sustainable from a variety of perspectives. This approach is perfectly compatible with our chain management philosophy. Staay Food Group wants to personally control as much of the supply chain as possible: from the cultivation to the production of pre-packed salads, and all steps in between.
Fully enclosed Farms grow products without using daylight. This is done by hanging specially developed LED lights above products like lettuce. By regulating the intensity and colour of the lights, and actively managing the climate, it is possible to accurately manage how the lettuce grows. Besides growth, the bite, colour, taste and even vitamin content can be regulated. An intelligent climate computer manages and registers all aspects of lighting, irrigation, temperature and air humidity, and ensures effective energy management.
This new approach to cultivation requires a broad approach. Expertise in the field of lighting, growing recipes, suitable products and farming techniques was essential when developing this method of cultivation. If the whole concept is to be successful, it is also very important to train growers and researchers. That is why Staay Food Group has decided to work within a consortium. Together with our partners, we see the project in Dronten as a learning process that allows every member of the consortium to gain knowledge and experience.
The convenience factory where the Vertical Farm will be housed has been newly built and should have been handed over in June 2017. However, for a variety of reasons, we have had to revise the timing for the Vertical Farm. Due to delays in the handover of the convenience factory, and the subsequent desire to upscale to full production capacity as quickly as possible, work on the Vertical Farm could only be started at a later date. In the meantime, further testing is being carried out in a pilot set-up at an external location, which will hopefully allow lettuce of perfect quality to be supplied from the factory. In any case, the results are very promising. An announcement will be made once we know when the first products from our Vertical Farm will be available in supermarkets.
(Source of pictures: Philips GrowWise Center)