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The 1st turnkey container solution for organic ENDIVE growing based on cost-efficient rail gutters.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Endive Container (The 1st turnkey container solution for organic ENDIVE growing based on cost-efficient rail gutters.)

Reporting period: 2018-06-01 to 2018-09-30

“Cichorium intybus var foliosum”, is the extraordinary plant that allow to grow endives, also called chicory or witloof (Brussels chicory). Endive has a great culinary diversity, it is nutritious and rich in fiber. A healthy source of minerals, vitamins and very low in calories. Endive is, without a doubt, one of the most complex and fascinating crops in the world to grow, requiring a two-step growing process (the 2nd step in darkness).
The grow of endives is dominated by France, Holland and Belgium with 85% of the worldwide production. Large key players from these countries control both the supply and the prices of endives at the supermarket. Countries like Italy and Spain with great consumption of vegetables including endives, have no own production capacity to supply their national markets. Thus, large quantities are imported, increasing consumers’ costs for endives.
The main bottleneck to achieve the automation is the growing support. Currently, the standard procedure is based on trays where the endive roots are planting one by one all together in the tray. The same procedure, one by one is required for harvesting. In addition to the crucial disease propagation between the roots, the trays cannot be handled in an automated way both for planting and harvesting each endive root.
The Delta Flex Channel has the potential to go a step further and it is presented as a feasible solution for the endive industry to unlock the automation of the crop growing. DFC due to its versatile profile is unique for its automated manipulation.
During the Feasibility Study, Cichorium has achieved one of the crucial milestones to complete the challenging automation. It is the partnership with experienced companies both in the field of automation and with a demonstrated track-record in the endive industry. Therefore, the Dutch Agrin Serv BV ( and the French Metha’Ardennes ( companies have been carefully selected to establish a complementary consortium for the automation development.
The 3 partners have been involved in the detailed design of the promising automated version of the endive growing. Automation can not only help grow healthier plants and save on labour, it can significantly lower the risk of crop loss. In addition to the advantages of the automation process itself, there are other key improvements related to the crop efficiency in each of the automation steps.
The Feasibility Study has allowed us to identify the endive growers at Eu level, specially in main markets. Also, the definition of Organic markets have been identified.
After the thorough analysis of the technical requirements of the project and the commercial forecast planned, the consortium has defined a detailed Business Plan for its implementations.
The main outcomes for the successful market uptake are illustrated in Figure attached and as follows:
- Completion of the final Endive Container with the new layout
- Extensive showcasing of the prototype around Europe to show organic growers the potential of the endive growing under the container conditions. The showcasing will be performed also illustrating the potential economical benefits and the short payback of exploitation. 2 years payback – 60Eur revenue/year
- The consortium will dedicate most of the effort to achieve the key milestone of the project: the endive automation. AgrinServ BV and Metha-Ardennes will play a key role for this development.
- The Modular Farm will be final goal of the project, being capable to create an entire production model for the endive growing as a game-changing model for the obsolete endive industry.
- The commercial roadmap will involve the three members of the Consortium. The Consortium establishment is not only for technological reasons. Since each of the partners have extensive experience and track record over the industry, we will take advantage of this commercial feature. Therefore, we have planned a commercial deployment using the main commercial network of each of the partners
Chicorium propose for the first time a completely automated endive production. The new process replaces the 3 manual steps of the crop growing (planting, harvesting and picking & packaging).
There is a huge potential for scale-up the DFC based growing system for other types of crops. Cichorium envisages two main groups with the replacement potential with clear advantages vs. state-of-the-art (see figure attached):
- Plants with nude roots without substrate for NFT (Nutrient Film Technique) growing systems.
Advantage: only one model of gutter allowing for versatile planting densities.
Being the DFC, a system that works without substrate, quality products are obtained, clean and ready for consumption, without the need for manipulations, good taste, excellent size, uniformity and a longer commercial life.
- Plants in pots (with substrate) and hydroponic irrigation system where the DFC channel allows operations to mechanize the growing through the possibility to automate the leaf cutting, the harvest of fruits or flowers.
The DFC rail gutters can be applied to tray-based cultivation systems in greenhouses or in vertical farming dispositions, and to a large amount of vegetables and fruits obtaining a cultivation performance increase of 25% per square meter over other tray-bases cultivation systems.
Growing crops with DFC provides a tremendous gain in production volume as well as production cost reductions. This is due to the efficient use of production space and the mechanization and simplification of labour. Growing with DFC is easy and reliable