CORDIS - EU research results

Bringing Local and Sustainable Produce Back to the City

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - InstaGreen (Bringing Local and Sustainable Produce Back to the City)

Reporting period: 2016-03-01 to 2016-08-31

According to the European Commission, nearly 100 million tons of food are wasted annually in the EU; and will raise to 120 million tons by 2020 if nothing is done. In 2014, the European Commission put forward objectives for food waste reduction in the EU with the aim of reducing food waste by at least 30 percent by 2025. “All actors in the food chain have a role to play in preventing and reducing food waste, from those who produce and process foods (farmers, food manufacturers and processors) to those who make foods available for consumption (restaurants, hospitality sector and retailers) and ultimately consumers themselves”.
Nowadays, most produce comes from big farms located far away from the final consumer, which need massive amount of resources (natural and non-natural). Due to the big distances between farms and final consumers, produce is usually picked before its ripe which translates into lower quality of food, low nutrients by the time of consumption. Not only that, but the whole production and transportation processes leave a massive environmental footprint.
Because of this, consumers and the hospitality sector are increasingly concerned with knowing where their food comes from, how it’s grown, the quality, and the impact it has on the environment. This changing attitude has led to the rising popularity of local food movements across the globe as well as triggering the rapidly emerging trend of urban agriculture: growing vegetables in the city.
In fact, a study done by AT Kearney shows that for a large percentage of consumers, local food outperforms natural and organic food. They found that customers associate sustainability-related attributes with locally sourced food as much as, or more than, organic food. Even though organic still runs strong, the willingness to pay for locally sourced items shows that it could be the next big thing in the food sector.
InstaGreen´s goal is to close the gap between producers and chefs/consumers by bringing fresh, locally grown, organic produce back into the city. While at the same time shortening the supply chain and drastically decreasing the carbon footprint by eliminating pesticides and herbicides from the growing process, reducing the natural resources required for growing produce as well as the processing and transportation costs, both financially and environmentally. With this in mind, we have developed a proprietary food-on-demand service, initially targeting environmentally high-end and conscious restaurants and at a second stage cafeterias in offices, schools, hospitals, etc., followed by individual consumers.

Increasingly, restaurants, especially conscious and high end restaurants, and chefs are taking note of the rising interest from consumers in eating locally, ecologically and responsibly. Chefs prefer locally sourced ingredients for their flavor and freshness and consumers recognize the advantage of knowing where their food comes from. Local farmers and farmer markets have traditionally been the source of top quality food for chefs, however, especially in big cities, access can be limited. Now, there is a new trend emerging; in big cities many top chefs are increasingly starting to grow their own food to ensure not only quality but also that they always have the ingredients they need.
All of these facts have led us to create an innovative offer with a combination of a product, a service and a production process that allows actors in the food chain to be in touch with the products at all times and take part in the reduction of environmental impact.

The overall objectives of the InstaGreen project will be to scale up and bring the current InstaGreenHouse and InstaGrow prototypes to industrial production level that is easy scalable, also allowing for a franchise business model, optimize the performance of the InstaGreenHouses and InstaGrows, and build a cloud based platform that will allow continuous communication between customers and InstaGreen.
After the completion of the feasibility study and business plan for the InstaGreen project, we proceeded to assess the results obtained. A summary of the activities performed and results of the study are:

Market assessment. During the execution of the feasibility study we identified and quantified our market, segmented it, and investigated the preferences of our potential customers and end consumers. The customer validation activities and demonstration tests described above, helped us understand the needs of our customers and the business model to approach in order to make InstaGreen a commercial success. We were also able to demonstrate our potential customers’ willingness to pay. Updated market figures and the European dimension have been included in the study.
Technological feasibility. An overview of international competition research and innovation development has been performed. Our study also includes a comparison with state-of-the-art research and commercially available products, including costs, benefits for customers and end-users, environmental impact and resource management. An initial technical design of the necessary equipment for the construction of InstaGreenHouses and InstaGrows has been defined, and first prototypes have been made and tested, with the objective of identifying and quantifying the resources needed for the implementation.
Risk assessment. Technical and commercial risks have been identified and ranked according to severity. Preventive actions have been established for each risk.
Business innovation plan. A clear, realistic and updated roadmap to commercialisation has been established.

The feasibility study carried out has clearly stated that there is a huge potential market, not only in Europe but worldwide. Our products will be commercialised at differentiated prices due to health and environmental impact advantages over known traditional options in the market.
We count with the initial workforce to begin the execution of the project, and will be expanding our team to achieve our technical and commercial goals.
Socio-economic impact and social implications:
 Complies with EU/Global Challenges.
 Uses 90% less water than the same crop production in traditional soil farming.
 Over 4 times the amount of crops in the same space as traditional soil farming.
 Growing process in an inert medium without soil, with perfectly balanced pH level, nutrients solutions and highly oxygenated water which is delivered directly to the roots. 0% of arable land is needed.
 Crops can grow twice as fast in hydroponics and aeroponics to getting exactly the correct amount of nutrients, water and oxygen.
 Hydroponically grown crops do not require herbicide or pesticide chemicals which significantly impact the environment and our bodies.
 Reduction of food miles, which translates into more accessible produce and less carbon print.
 Energy saving technology, compared to traditional greenhouses.
 Improvement of marketability, by locally growing fresh and organic products, restaurants and grocers can respond to shifting customer demand.
 Mitigation of supply chain risks.
 Food spoilage is considerably reduced when food is harvested right before consumption.
 Reduction of 72% on CO2 emissions.
 Harvest at the moment of consumption ensures higher nutrient levels in food.
 Food production also possible in harsh conditions, not getting affected by weather conditions.
 Makes use of post-industrial and other empty urban buildings.
 Can be easily installed in relatively small spaces and easy scalable production systems.
 It is an easy system to operate also by franchises, its functioning is user-friendly and its maintenance is very low.

Food demand is rising in tandem with the global population. Increasing urbanization and a general exodus from rural areas to urban areas is causing a change in lifestyle trends, particularly with regards to eating habits. In this age of busy lifestyles, where people are left with little time to spend on preparing food at home, eating out at restaurants has become a common practice. Preference for outdoor food is even higher among younger consumers with high disposable incomes but very little time to spare. This scenario provides an opportunity for restaurateurs to offer different food service options. Franchising of restaurants, food joints, and even food products and ingredients has helped boost overall growth in the global restaurant industry in recent years. The restaurant sector is catching up with the healthy eating trend. A majority of restaurant goers in the United States and Europe prefer healthy food items in restaurants. Organic food, beverages and food with less trans-fats are increasingly finding their place in restaurant menus.
A growing number of people are comparing restaurant menu items and their nutritional benefits on the internet. Also an increasing number of people are making restaurant choices based on online reviews, which include the quality and freshness of the products, and even their way of production.
InstaGreen - InstaGrows, hydroponically grown microgreens