First large-scale commercial vertical farm in Europe to be set up in the Netherlands

Staay Food Group is building a vertical farm in Dronten, the Netherlands, to supply one of Europe's biggest supermarket chains, and to test and optimise processes for future, larger vertical farms.

Image: Philips Lighting
Image: Philips Lighting

Lit by Philips GreenPower LED horticultural lighting, the 900m2 facility will contain over 3,000m2 of growing space, producing pesticide-free lettuce. This anticipates upcoming stricter regulations faced by retailers on residual pesticide levels in lettuce.

Vegetable breeder Rijk Zwaan has worked with Staay and Philips on research over the past three years to determine the best combination of lettuce varieties and growth recipes to optimise crop quality and yields, at Philips' GrowWise research centre in Eindhoven.

Rijk Zwaan marketing and business development manager Wim Grootscholten said: "The tests are enabling us to identify which varieties are optimal for growing in a vertical farm, and also which varieties offer the best taste and texture.

"We believe that vertical farms will become increasingly important, because in the future we see more economic and environmental pressure to produce fruit and vegetables, such as lettuce, closer to where end-customers are located."

Staay Food Group CEO Rien Panneman added: "Producing lettuce for the fresh-cut segment indoors also means much lower bacterial count and therefore longer shelf life at the retailers.

"With the lettuce being packaged at the same spot as where it is grown, we save on transport before distribution to retailers. Also, by avoiding weather fluctuations, we maintain an optimized and stable production environment to guarantee consistent and optimal product quality."

The facility will begin operation in the second half of 2017.

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