Robbe produces salads and herbs in a smart plant factory

Net 2018,  2018-09-10

“Is this the future of produce farming? Salads and herbs grow in 4-5 layers under LED lights. Water and nutrients circulate. Energy and resource efficiency of the highest quality,” tweeted Kimmo Tiilikainen, Minister of the Environment, Energy and Housing, on the opening ceremony of a new vertical farm on August 3, 2018.

The opening ceremony of one of the biggest vertical farms in Europe was held in Lindkoski, Lapinjärvi, on a hot summer Friday. The event was hosted by gardener Robert Jordas from Robbes Lilla Trädgård Oy (Robbe’s Little Garden). Among the invitees were representatives from the Japanese partner Fujitsu Greenhouse Technology Finland Ltd, the municipality of Lapinjärvi, Fujitsu Finland, and the media. Kimmo Tiilikainen, Minister of the Environment, Energy and Housing, attended as the representative of he State of Finland.

Robbe produces salads and herbs in a smart plant factory

The ribbon of the opening ceremony was naturally cut with garden scissors. From the left: Gardener Robbe Jordas, Minister Kimmo Tiilikainen, Norihiko Taniguchi, Executive Vice President of Fujitsu Ltd, and Shinji Yoshioka, Managing Director of Fujitsu Greenhouse Technology Finland.

In November 2016, Fujitsu established a new company, Fujitsu Greenhouse Technology Finland Ltd, specializing in greenhouse technology. The company partnered up with another Finnish company, Robbes Lilla Trädgård.

“Fujitsu decided to set up a greenhouse company in Finland because here the strong technology-driven mindset is combined with solid greenhouse expertise. Now that the facility is finished, it marks an important milestone for Fujitsu Greenhouse Technology Finland. Our aim is to grow and supply vegetables steadily and all year round,” said Shinji Yoshioka, Managing Director of Fujitsu Greenhouse Technology Finland.

“The recent visit of President Sauli Niinistö in Japan sparked the idea of how Finland could serve as a gateway for bringing out new Japanese technology and a new way of thinking. Finland could provide Japan with a route to Europe – and likewise, Japan could provide Finland with a route to the Asian market. This event serves as an excellent example of the cooperation between our countries. As climate change is proceeding, we need new ways of responsibly producing raw materials and vegetables. I believe that in the future, Finland will be known and acknowledged for its pure food and high technology,” said Kimmo Tiilikainen.

Four million pots a year

The innovative growing method combines ICT, cloud services, and LED lights with the fully-automated farming of vegetables in vertically stacked layers.

“We produce salads, herbs, and sprout salads in 2-3 week cultivation cycles. We deliver a lot of vegetables to restaurants. The sprout salad, baby leaf in other words, that we produce with the new method is not a very common product in Finland yet, but it’s widely sold in Europe and Japan. As for selling greens, there is a clear trend towards products that are ready-to-eat. Consumers don’t want to buy the pot or the core, only the leaves,” Robbe Jordas says.

Growing plants in layers produces more crops in the same cubic volume. In Finland that is a significant benefit due to the high energy costs during winter. Greenhouses are big buildings, so vertical farming saves space for example in the proximity of cities, where land is expensive.

In a typical greenhouse in Finland, the conditions are usually either too light, dark, hot, cold, dry, or humid. When the vegetables grow in a completely closed environment, the indoor conditions can be controlled so that the plants get just the right amount of what they need, and there is no need for natural sunlight at all, for instance. The level of carbon dioxide can also be adjusted to ensure a fast growth of a lush crop. What is more, compared to outdoor farming, there is no similar need for herbicides or pesticides, as indoor farming lessens the risk of viruses and pests.

The cultivation room is a closed space, and it’s not possible to walk amongst the vertical plantation. It is a fully-automated facility, and the farmer goes there only once a day to make sure through visual inspection that everything is in order. From the plant growing area, a conveyor belt moves the greens to another end, where they are cut. The farming chutes are washed, and new plants are sprouted in them under artificial lights. The goal is that the product won’t be touched until it is put into a sales package.

In the future, nearly 480 tons of vegetables will be farmed at Lindkoski. That equals four million green pots of salads and herbs without compromising the quality or the safety of the product.

» Harvest Festival a blog post by Simo Leisti 31.7.2018

Finland has the expertise and a suitable climate

Simo Leisti, Managing Director of Fujitsu Finland, makes an on-site visit to the red-tinted farming conditions of the plant factoryGreenhouse Technology Finland uses the latest technology where fully-automated processes are equipped with the Akisai cloud platform. It is developed specifically for the needs of food production and agriculture. The way the greenhouse operates is based on the data collected by sensors and the Ubiquitous Environment Control System technology, which remotely monitor the production technology equipment in the greenhouse.

Finland was chosen as the location of the plant factory due to its strong technical know-how, the right kind of climate and suitable energy costs for testing the concept. Fujitsu aims to gather expertise gained from deploying cloud services in food production and agriculture and make use of it also elsewhere in Europe in the future.

The plant factory grows and delivers leaf lettuce, baby greens, and herbs. The vegetables have been placed on 4-tier growing trays, so that the produced quantities in the same cubic volume increase considerably. There is no need for natural sunlight at all, as LED-lights are on hand throughout the year.

In the picture above, Simo Leisti, Managing Director of Fujitsu Finland, makes an on-site visit to the red-tinted farming conditions of the plant factory.

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Published in the Net Magazine 2018,  2018-09-10

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