Fieldlab Vertical Farming
Project period: 2019 tot en met 2023
In view of the rapidly increasing world population, there is a great need for innovative agricultural methods to significantly increase the production of food per square meter. Therefor, an important development is the vertical cultivation of products in a closed, fully conditioned environment, where cultivation is (usually) produced in several layers one above the other with minimal use of space and without the use of chemical crop protection products.
The perspectives for this way of growing are very good and are booming, especially outside the Netherlands, with huge investments in vertical farms in the US and Asia. As a leading horticultural country, the Netherlands already has several parties involved in vertical farming.
However, developments outside the Netherlands are moving so fast that it threatens the leading position of the Netherlands, but it also offers great opportunities. If Dutch horticulture does not sufficiently respond to this global development, the sector will miss the boat.
There is already a great deal of knowledge and expertise in the field of vertical farming in the Netherlands, including at knowledge parties such as Wageningen Research and large and small horticultural suppliers. But the knowledge and expertise is very fragmented. The parties are unable to find each other sufficiently and the sector therefore lacks sufficient (international) strength. In order to combat this fragmentation and to bring together the available knowledge and expertise in the field of vertical cultivation in one central location in the Netherlands, the idea for a Fieldlab Vertical Farming in South Holland arose. This ERDF application focuses on the start-up and operation of this Fieldlab over a period of four years. After this period, the Fieldlab must have proven its added value to the network in such a way that it can sustain itself by means of its own earnings model.
Within Fieldlab Vertical Farming, the leading horticultural knowledge parties from the Opportunities for West program area work together with (SME) companies from South Holland that represent the entire horticultural chain. The participating partners within the consortium, including the (SME) companies, invest in addition to their own hours also in the financing of (the management of) the Fieldlab. This already lays a foundation for future financing of the Fieldlab. In addition, the project is supported by major leading horticultural companies from South Holland that are active in the field of vertical cultivation. They have also shown a strong interest in the Fieldlab, but do not participate as a partner in the project. They have, however, pledged their cooperation and support to the Fieldlab through a statement of support.
The Fieldlab offers its services from physical facilities at three locations in South Holland:
- In Bleiswijk for research and demonstration (technical and cultivation-technical aspects): a facility for strategically applied research and demonstration at WUR Greenhouse Horticulture; and a field research and demonstration facility at Delphy Improvement Center.
- In Naaldwijk in the World Horti Center, facilities for education related to vertical farming;
- In Ridderkerk in the Experience Center of Van Gelder, facilities for market and consumer issues for vertical farming.
The activities of the Fieldlab within this project are performed from four work packages.
Work Package 1: Market Operation & Demand Articulation
This work package focuses on increasing awareness of the added value of vertical farming for consumers and market parties, such as retail and catering. Through consumer and market research and demonstration activities, the benefits of vertically grown products are shown in practice.
Implementation takes place in collaboration with Van Gelder's Experience Center in Ridderkerk.
Work Package 2: Innovation & Demonstration
This work package focuses on the development and valorisation of innovations in the field of vertical farming by horticultural companies. By means of new state-of-the-art climate cells from WUR and the Improvement Center in Bleiswijk, facilities are offered to entrepreneurs for conducting research and testing and demonstrating promising new techniques.
Work Package 3: Education & Training
This work package focuses on the development of state-of-the art training programs in vertical farming. In addition, the latest knowledge in the field of vertical farming is disseminated in the network through learning arrangements for entrepreneurs. Implementation largely takes place from the World Horti Center in Naaldwijk. The WHC thus forms the regional education arm of the Fieldlab in South Holland. Inholland University of Applied Sciences is responsible for safeguarding the latest technology and knowledge of vertical farming in regular (vocational) education.
Work Package 4: Business Accelerator
The goal of work package 4 is to expand the cooperation within the Vertical Farming Fieldlab into a network from which companies and knowledge institutions can continue to work on accelerating business development in the field of vertical farming. This lays the foundation for a permanent earnings model for the Fieldlab, with which the collaboration can continue after the project and can be further expanded.
In the Fieldlab Vertical Farming, an important collaboration is established between South Holland knowledge institutions and companies engaged in the production of vertically grown products, the sale of vertically grown products and suppliers of technologies for vertical farms. The project creates an innovative ecosystem in which state-of-the-art knowledge of knowledge institutions and (SME) companies is brought together and where optimal facilities are offered to companies for 'business-driven' research and innovation in the field of vertical farming. The Fieldlab thus contributes to increasing the knowledge position of Dutch horticulture in the field of daylight-free cultivation and maintaining the leading position of the Dutch horticultural sector worldwide. The Fieldlab thus makes an essential contribution to sustainably strengthening the competitive position of the horticultural sector in South Holland. This collaboration is fundamentally different from what is now common in production chains for fresh fruit and vegetables.