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The vertical farming revolution, urban Farming as a Service.

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - INFARM (The vertical farming revolution, urban Farming as a Service.)

Reporting period: 2017-08-01 to 2018-04-30

Our eating habits have created a demand for produce that is available 365 days a year, even though some varieties may only be seasonal and/or produced on the other side of the globe. This means that we have facilitated a food system that is focused on quantity, low prices, and efficiency rather than on quality, sustainability, and traceability. Statistics show that our food travels about 1500km, goes through 28 different pairs of hands and wastes incredible amounts of valuable energy to reach the end consumer. 30% of the produce is wasted before it arrives on our plates. The food that does survive the long journey is not fresh, lacks vital nutrients, and in most cases is covered in pesticides and herbicides.

However, consumer preferences are shifting quickly. They are now demanding local, nutrient-dense food without any chemical pesticides that has caused minimal damage to planetary health. The absence of accountability and the inflexibility of our current food system is threatening one of our most precious resources, so we decided INFARM’s mission should be to remove the distance between the farmer and the consumer and thus contribute to an emerging local food system that is transparent, resilient, and affordable. By growing directly where people eat and live we can cut out the lengthy supply chain, eliminate food waste, offer nutrient-dense food without any chemical pesticides and improve the environmental ‘foodprint’ of our plants.

Indoor vertical farming has existed for quite some time, especially in countries like Japan, where the lack of space for farming and very high demand from a large population made innovation in this field necessary. However, these indoor vertical farms are ‘plant factories’ - large warehouses or facilities that are focused on a few varieties, which are grown and processed before being shipped off to be sold in supermarket aisles. The approach is not much different to other existing industrial farming players. Furthermore, city-centres do not have the available space for such large facilities. Therefore, many of these plant factories are situated in the perimeter of large cities but a significant amount of distance between the consumer and the farm still remains.

The lack of space within cities is only going to become more of a problem as cities grow, but our modular farms were designed to fit into given spaces - your neighbourhood supermarket could have a farm as well as your favourite restaurant. We are looking to organically disperse and integrate ourselves into the dense urban environment, not force our way in.

The challenge is in finding the right partners. Our initial focus is on supermarket chains, online food retailers, wholesalers, hotels, and other food-related businesses, for whom the superior quality and range of produce - with no fluctuation in costs - makes INFARM an attractive partner. In return, INFARM can reintroduce the joy of growing to the urban population through these prominent partners’ established consumer base.
The technology we have created is the core enabler in helping us achieve our vision. Our vertical farming units are modular can be integrated into any given space, small or large. We are placing farms in multiple locations across the city, in places such as supermarkets, distribution centres, restaurants, schools, or hospitals; and potentially any other location that supplies or serves food.

Behind our farms is a robust hardware and software platform for precision farming. Each farming unit is its own individual ecosystem, creating the exact environment our plants need to flourish. We are able to develop growing recipes that tailor the light spectrums, temperature, pH, and nutrients to ensure the maximum natural expression of each plant in terms of flavor, colour, and nutritional quality. Whether that be an Arugula from Provence, Mexican Tarragon or Moroccan Mint.

Our growing trays are built upon the petal constellation of the sunflower, the most space efficient arrangement in nature. The tray moves plants from the centre to the outer perimeter according to their size and growth. Young seedlings are placed in the center of the spiral and are harvested from the outside when matured. This allows us to harvest fresh produce on a daily basis and a significantly higher output than comparable technologies.
Finally, a matrix of sensors collect and record data from each farm allowing our Plant Experts to remotely optimise the growth of the plants in real-time, whilst also consistently feeding into the development of our central farming platform.
During the first half of the project, expectations have been surpassed and the expected impact until the end of the project is even greater than at the beginning of it. This is due to successfully establishing relationships with one of Germany's largest supermarket chains, EDEKA. At this moment in time, INFARM has successfully installed farming units and point of sales in 26 EDEKA locations around Berlin, and the number of supermarkets is increasing rapidly. In addition to the in-store farms, INFARM has successfully activated a large-scale seedling plant and logistic solutions that allows the continued, successful operation of all farming units and point of sales. These results are the first step towards creating an indoor farming network in Berlin that will ultimately make Berlin more self-sufficient in its food production. However, Berlin will not be the only city provided with INFARM produce. With the signing of contracts with EDEKA Süd-West, EDEKA Rhein-Ruhr, Migros Zürich and Metro Cash & Carry Nanterre the expansion has just started.