Pioneering with vertical farming
Colruyt Group developed a high-tech vertical farm in house. We grow plants such as basil with a minimal environmental impact, which have been available at Bio-Planet from March 2020 to July 2022. Today, there is a renewed focus on further research.
What is vertical farming?
In vertical farming you grow plants and crops in a closed system in several layers on top of each other. This way, you can grow many crops in a small area. As you have complete control over the conditions (light, temperature and water) you can also ensure optimal growth with a minimal environmental impact.
Basil plants at Bio-Planet
The first pilot plant was put into operation in 2019 in Halle at our Hellebroek distribution centre. With success: the basil plants from our vertical farm have been available from March 2020 to July 2022 in the Bio-Planet shops and online shops, under the Boni private label. The high-tech installation had room for 250,000 plants.
With this pilot plant, we learned a lot. To facilitate further research on upscaling, this installation will once again be fully used as a research facility. The basil you find in Bio-Planet today is therefore, for the time being, not the result of vertical farming but of organic cultivation in pots.
Advantages of vertical farming
- 20 times less space: by growing in several layers on top of each other, we use 20 times less space than for traditional cultivation.
- 90% less water: the plants receive exactly the required amount of purified rainwater (which we collect on the roof of our distribution centre). This means 90% less water than usual is consumed.
- 5 times less kilometres: the vertical farm is located near our distribution centre, which results in 5 times less kilometres.
- 100% green electricity: our vertical farm runs on 100% green electricity, most of which we generate ourselves.
- Energy efficiency: energy-saving LED lamps and an innovative ventilation system make the farm very energy-efficient.
- 50% less nutrients: the plants receive just enough nutrients to grow well. The result? A saving of 50%.
- Longer shelf life: thanks to the adapted light and the specific cultivation technique, the basil plants not only have a fuller flavour, they are also stronger. If you take good care of them, you can keep them a lot longer, with less loss of food as a result.
Cooperation with research institutes
Our Research & Development department works closely with several knowledge institutions, such as UGent and the light lab of KU Leuven, to give the project a solid scientific basis. Moreover, an additional research project is currently underway in cooperation with VLAIO, the Flemish Agency for Innovation and Enterprise. Additional research, investment and development of the technology is needed to scale up or experiment with other species in the long run.