IT company SERCOM from Lisse automated the first companies using multi-layer cultivation five years ago, well before the term Vertical Farming became a hype. At the GreenTech trade fair in Amsterdam, SERCOM will be displaying the latest process control – hardware and software – in this field.

Vertical Farming is the theme of the upcoming GreenTech trade fair in RAI Amsterdam. Vertical Farming is a global trend, and generally leafy vegetables and herbs are cultivated in closed spaces on several layers under LED-lighting. In Japan and America, Vertical Farming is on the rise, and primarily young entrepreneurs are attracted to it.

In America one Vertical Farming company after another is being set up, always in close proximity to large cities. The Association for Vertical Farming (AVF) expects that there will be a Vertical Farm next to every major urban area within 10 years. It is not surprising that multinationals like Philips, Metro, Osram, Toshiba, Microsoft, Panasonic, Fujitsu and GE are interested in it. It is not particularly popular with Dutch growers yet. But multi-layer cultivation is on the rise, especially with young plants (vegetables, potted plants) and tulip farms.

Forced tulips

SERCOM has developed climate systems for several farms in the Netherlands involved in forcing tulips with multi-layer cultivation. One of them is Karel Bolbloemen BV in Bovenkarspel. Since 2011 they have been farming vertically. That makes Karel one of the first tulip companies that started large-scale ‘internal expansion’ with multi-layer layers in containers with an ebb & flow system. The tulips remain in the dark for the first few days, then fluorescent light is added. SERCOM developed the system for climate control, including the cooling of the climate chambers, the lighting for the multi-layer cultivation and the irrigation of the greenhouse.

In due course, the fluorescent lighting will be replaced by LEDs. Director-owner Bert Karel thinks this will use less energy and allow better control of the plants. Research conducted by Wageningen UR in 2011 revealed that tulips respond differently to different LED-colours. There will also be a new system, in which LED-lighting will be used to improve the quality of the tulips even more and match the production better to peaks in demand. Karel Bolbloemen BV supplies tulips upon demand to supermarkets throughout Europe.

Visit SERCOM at the GreenTech at SERCOM Plaza, hall 11, stand 321.

Photo: KG Systems/Karel Bolbloemen BV.