European Commission logo
English English
CORDIS - EU research results

Proposal for innovative and sustainable polyculture greenhouse system Polydome

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Polydome (Proposal for innovative and sustainable polyculture greenhouse system Polydome)

Reporting period: 2015-07-01 to 2015-12-31

Polydome Arkna - SME Instrument Phase 1 - resource efficient Eco-innovative food production and processing

Polydome Arkna is a newly created company with the purpose of realising a 1-ha Polydome in Arkna village, Estonia. Its vision is to provide a wide variety of fresh produce, grown sustainably for the Arkna Eco-Park and for Estonian consumption. Polydome, developed in 2011 by Except Integrated Sustainability, is an innovative, agricultural system producing high quality food efficiently, while creating environmental benefits, and caring for human and animal welfare. Polydome Arkna focuses on selling fresh, local and organic food year-round. The demand in this market segment is steadily growing. Moreover, Estonians are willing to pay a premium price for locally produced food. The combination of the Arkna bio-local brand and efficient production by using locally available resources give Polydome Arkna a strong competive advantage. Moreover, competition for bio-local produce is low in Estonia.
For the physical design of the Polydome, a standard Venlo-type greenhouse is chosen. The greenhouse has three different heights to allow the optimal height for different crops. The visitors center and restaurant offers visitors to taste, buy, and experience what Polydome has to offer.
The Polydome food production ecosystem is designed according to two main principles:
1. Polyculture: mix of crops and other species that have symbiotic and beneficial relationships with each other;
2. Closed energy and material flows.
Eight crop clusters were defined, based on:
› Market analysis, demand and pricing;
› Locally preferred crops;
› Symbiotic relationships between different plants (companion planting);
› Crop rotation and intercropping based on permaculture design principles that distinguish between three groups: heavy feeders, carbon crops and nitrogen crops;
› Input from desk study and experts.
Different sources, technologies and operations are required to support the production of food. Focus was given to closing loops and materials flows, and using sustainable and local sources. For the internal systems and installations proven and existing technologies are chosen from reputable suppliers. Preference was given to international suppliers with local presence and contractors in Estonia to allow for high-tech and efficient solutions.
Financial analysis shows that Polydome Arkna is financially feasible and economically viable. The return on investment is achieved in year 6. If the financing for phase 2, for the final design and construction, is secured within 6 months, production
starts in 2018.

The project (i.e. feasibility study) has three objectives:
› Define the goal, vision and project boundary conditions regarding the sustainability of various conceptual pathways, opportunities, and potential extra functions;
› Develop and define a concept that is mature enough to be estimated and evaluated on performance;
› Develop support material for PR, investor and stakeholder communication, such a visualisations, text and diagrams explaining the Polydome process, which can be used to promote the project within the community, to others outside the local community, and to attract additional funding.
Overview of the project
The project team applied Except’s Symbiosis in Development (SiD) framework to inform the project planning. This framework identifies four main phases. Duration of the project: 6 months. Start date: 1 June 2015. End date: 27 November 2015.
1. Project preparation phase
› Team formation
› Project planning
› Outline of reports (table of contents)
› Site visit preparations
2. Intelligence phase
› Data collection and desk research
› Site visits: site survey and stakeholder meetings
3. Solution cycle phase
› Iterative series of worksessions to develop:
• Physical sketches and technical requirements
• Ecosystem outline and performance
› Additional research
4. Finalization phase
› Report writing and design
› Partner kick-off meeting
› Development of PR materials

Key Findings
Vision and Performance goals
1. Vision and mission are realistic;
2. The greenhouse can only be energetically selfsustaining if the biogas plant, connected to the agricultural unit is realized;
3. Dependence on non-local supply of seeds, but other material inputs (compost, insects, soil) can be sourced from within the Arkna Eco-Park;
4. Local water supply and advanced recycling can be achieved;
5. Use of toxic chemicals or materials that may pose a threat to human or ecosystem health are avoided.
1. Success depends on the success of the Arkna Eco-Park;
2. Combination with tourism complex and vicinity of two other mansions is good for PR;
3. Presence of functioning agricultural unit allows for smart ways of closing material and energy flows;
4. The entire Arkna Eco-Park provides opportunities for functions in addition to food production, such as education, social uses, retail, processing, and others.
Market assessment
1. Good market and potential sales for bio-local Polydome products;
2. Sales channels in Lääne-Viru county are limited, due to the size of the market.
Physical design
1. Standard Venlo greenhouse best option;
2. The Experience Center allows visitors to learn about sustainable food production;
3. Due to landscape design and the water reservoir, the greenhouse will better fit in the landscape than a standard greenhouse.
Food production
1. There are two main indoor zones: annual and perennial;
2. There are eight crop clusters, including four fruit cluster, one annual zone with two different rotations, a mushroom production zone, one aquaponics unit and a hydroponics zone.
3. Clusters developed based on wishlist, polyculture design and companion planting guidelines, maximizing beneficial plant-plant and plantanimal interactions;
4. Animal welfare is a top priority;
5. Most technologies and materials for Polydome can be sourced in Estonia;
6. It produces high-quality, marketable products year-round.
1. Finding high-skilled labour in the areas of horticulture, hydroponics and greenhouse food production might prove difficult, but strategies are in place;
2. Low-skilled labour can be easily sourced locally;
3. Functioning of Polydome IP Network is important for long-term sustainability of Polydome Arkna;
4. The Arkna Eco-Park offers an inspiring environment for workers and visitors alike.
Financial analysis
1. Polydome Arkna is financially feasible and economically viable, with a return on investment in year 6.
1. Planning schedule indicates that production can start in 2018;
2. Financing has been secured with inclusion of the SME Instrument funding.
The findings of this feasibility study show that this initiative will be highly beneficial to the organization and has a high probability of success. It is economically viable and Polydome Arkna meets the the majority of its performance goals.
Final results are expected to show that this project is feasible business-wise, has significant socio-economic value and will have great impact on breaking the ideas of existing agricultural solutions and patterns.
Except's logo
Polydome vision