Last September, students from the Feeding Our Planet minor launched a ‘Vertical Farming’ project at VHL University of Applied Sciences (VHL) in Leeuwarden– in cooperation with in-house caterer Eurest. Stacked growing layers – towers in this case – are used here for growing crops. Because the Vertical Farm is a cycle system, the water-saving potential is up to 90% compared with traditional methods, and it possible to grow far more plants per square metre due to the vertical use of space (72 plants per tower/m2). Today, our caterer Eurest was officially presented with the first ‘vertical crop’ in our Leeuwarden canteen.
Following the first vertical growing period, the Feeding Our Planet students offered the caterer Eurest nine sorrel plants, ten mint plants, four peppermint plants, forty parsley plants, three chive plants and two lovage plants. The caterer can use these plants to garnish sandwiches, spice soups and make drinks, for example. The intention is that many more batches will follow after this first supply.
The Vertical Farming towers were sourced from the company Urban Ponics. According to Urban Ponics, vertical growing makes it possible to produce healthier vegetables because the nutrition and growing methods provide the full spectrum of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and amino acids. In addition, pesticides are not required. Because all parameters (including light) can be controlled, it is possible to influence the taste, colour and nutritional aspects.
The project aims to produce fresh and safe vegetables for our caterer, in order to make the range in the canteen healthier and more sustainable. Vertical Farming offers a great many options for food production in environments where this was hitherto not possible. This is because the system can be fully controlled and requires far less space, which makes it possible to drastically reduce the food miles of vegetables.
It is thanks to Eric de Bruin, lecturer in Biobased Proteins, that the minor (Feeding Our Planet) was given the opportunity to start operating the system and to work on the first production for our canteen. The towers were built and connected in the greenhouse together with Bauke Hegeman and his company AquaFutura – which specialises in aquaponics systems.