The rising popularity of vertical farming was clearly demonstrated at the GreenTech trade fair, held this year from 12 to 14 July in the RAI Amsterdam Convention Centre. GreenTech Amsterdam organised the GreenTech Amsterdam Vertical Farming Pavilion for the second time in a row, in collaboration with the Association for Vertical Farming.

As the co-organiser of the Vertical Farming Pavilion, the Association for Vertical Farming (AVF) was prominently present at the theme pavilion. In addition to this, the AVF held several round-table lectures at the AVF café, at which various experts in vertical farming spoke.

Farming without human interference

The topics addressed during the round-table lectures included the standardisation and use of data in vertical farming, innovation within vertical farming systems, growing crops for medicinal purposes and artificial intelligence (AI) in vertical farming. According to Ramin Ebrahimnejad, press & media manager at AVF, artificial intelligence – the last topic in the above list – is rapidly gaining in importance in vertical farming. ‘Learning machines will be playing an increasingly strong role in vertical farming methods’, says Ebrahimnejad. ‘Thanks to the combination of machines that can learn and artificial intelligence vertical farming the time will come soon when no human interference will be needed.’

‘Technology is of primary importance’

Consulting engineer Damion Schwarzkachel of Certhon agrees with Ebrahimnejad. ‘In the next five years, vertical farming will focus on controlled growth conditions, for which no human beings will be needed’, professes Schwarzkachel. Certhon was one of the approximately twenty companies with a stand at the Vertical Farming Pavilion. ‘Automation and scale increase in vertical farming will be playing an increasingly important role in the next few years’, predicts the company’s consulting engineer. ‘In this, technology will be of paramount importance with regard to development.’

Higher-quality crops

According to Ebrahimnejad, another development in vertical farming is the increasing diversity of the crops being grown. ‘There is currently a movement that promotes a greater diversity in crops grown with vertical farming techniques. Cannabis is becoming increasingly interesting, but there are many other high-quality crops that are currently being grown more frequently using vertical farming methods.’ This trend can also be discerned in tests currently being conducted on raspberry and strawberry crops at the Certhon Innovation Center. ‘The profitability of vertically growing raspberries and strawberries still has to be proven’, concludes Schwarzkachel, ‘but we will be able to tell you more about this as soon as the results come in.’

Author: Leo Hoekstra. Photos: Mario Bentvelsen.