What not to do when starting a vertical farm?

“It’s about the consumer price. Ask yourself, can consumers pay the price you have to pay to make your business case work?” Grodan’s Gonneke Gros Gerkema said recently in response to the challenges facing vertical growers. the supply chain. .

On April 21, the Indoor Farming NL, GreenTech and Farm Tech Society organized an event at the World Horti Center. The topic of the panel was: Learn from indoor agriculture icons. The following participated in the panel: Guz van der Feltz as panel leader, Ellis Janssen (Signify), Susanne Mosmans (Future Crops), Gonneke Gros Gerkema (Grodan) and Jan Westra (Priva).

Gus van der Feltz and Gonneke Gros Gerkema

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The EU is lagging behind with organic prices
In addition, Susanne pointed out that in the EU, it’s a different matter when it comes to pricing products. In the United States, a higher price may be charged because vertical agricultural products are certified organic. This presents European vertical agriculture with a major setback that they have not yet overcome.

“We need to convey the benefits of vertical farming to the consumer so that he realizes that imported products need to be replaced by locally grown products. It starts with the consumer and we still have a long way to go. We need both the consumer and to educate the retailer and the customer to open the door to this opportunity. “

Susanne Mosmans

Ellis Janssen noted that the government could help drive innovation and quickly adapt to the problem raised above, as Singapore does with their established SDGs. It stimulated companies and organizations to start projects and initiate regulations. There are many rules behind it that the government can stimulate and prevent the industrialization of the sector.

“Once there is state support for vertical agricultural research, the resulting technology can be sold globally, increasing the industry as a whole,” added Jan Westra.

Ellis Janssen

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What not to do when starting a vertical farm?
Jan Westra, Strategic Business Developer at Priva, discussed with the participants the elements that can not be overlooked when starting your own cultivation business. It is therefore most important to first check the following elements: Check your market, what is there and what can you offer. Second, do not overpower. Keep your staff in step with the work, so you follow the growth. Be careful, because rapid growth can lead to failure, which means you have to do everything again.

Third, you need to decide if you want to be a technology company or a grower. There seems to be a lot of overlap in the sector, which is causing companies to lose focus. Above all, do not reinvent the wheel. Investigate what already exists that can complement your production. To be less vulnerable, work together. Finally, what is eaten in the area? Do not bring products that are not part of the local cuisine. Do market research to find out which product to add to the market.

Jan Westra

The big question: a greenhouse or a vertical yard?
According to Gonneke, the climate zone is very crucial when choosing a greenhouse or a vertical yard. Certain climates do not allow cheap production in greenhouses as they may require a lot of heating or cooling.

Second, depending on the crop that will be produced, a price can be set. “If the production of certain crops in greenhouses is much cheaper, it is natural to choose this. But value-added crops that can be sold at a higher price will show that vertical farming will be the best option.”

Ellis adds, “The level of labor and automation also plays a big role in the decision-making process. If (affordable) labor is available, both options are possible. But if there is a high degree of automation, vertical farming is the most appropriate.”

Judith van Heck and Frans Zwinkels

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How can you build a business case with this current energy carousel we live in?
Fortunately, everyone is in the same boat, Susanne indicated. But we need to look at sustainable energy. Unfortunately, more sustainable does not always mean cheaper.

“100% green energy is even more expensive, which actually makes it very contradictory. All in all, energy consumption needs to go down in the first place, and we can do that well. It’s a challenge from a business point of view. But I’m convinced that we can do it.” can, for it is still possible, “she added.

Gonneke explained it this way: “Just like in other sectors, government subsidies can really help innovate. For example, by looking at residual heat from other sectors that greenhouses and indoor agriculture can use to heat their business.”

The Horti ladies: Gonneke Gros Gerkema, Marjan Welvaarts, Susanne Mosmans and Ellis Janssen

What difficulties do you encounter when starting a new project?
Sometimes there is a lack of knowledge about cultivation and about the market. “Every time we start a new project, we discuss all the possibilities for the growers. We ask them what crop they want to grow and where they can add value to the market. In terms of cost, it should make sense for them. And capital, where do they get it? “We need to make sure that the business case works as a whole, so that they can have a good ROI,” says Ellis Janssen. Ideally, growers would start small and scale up later, she explains. However, it really depends on the wishes of the grower.

For more information:
Indoor agriculture Holland
Gus van der Feltz, project manager
Judith van Heck, community builder




Susanne Mosmans, Business Unit Director
Future crops

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