What is Vertical Indoor Farming?
The term consists of the words Vertical and Indoor Farming.
- Vertical: Plants are cultivated stacked on top of each other on shelf-like systems.
- Indoor Farming: Cultivation of plants in a fully enclosed space, protected from the weather conditions of the exterior environment and at BEL, with high-tech LEDs.
Does Vertical Indoor Farming already exist?
Yes! The first Vertical Indoor Farms were researched and tested in Japan as early as in the 1980s. At that time the material and operating costs were very high and robotics, LED and automation technology were still in their infancy.
The growing need for sustainable and at the same time profitable production methods for plants has led to a real “boom” and enormous growth of the Vertical Indoor Farming market. Especially in the last five years there have been numerous different start-up companies worldwide particularly in the USA, Singapore, Japan and in Europe.
We have analysed the cultivation systems, the LED and overall system technology of the competitors and have fundamentally redesigned and optimised these for large-scale production. We also combined our system with an innovative renewable energy concept in order to reduce operating costs.We offer a new generation of more sustainable, more energy-efficient and automated Vertical Indoor Farms, our so-called “BEL Climate Chambers” that are unique in the world.
What is a BEL Climate Chamber?
The term consists of the words “BEL” and “Climate Chamber“.
- BEL: That’s us, the BioEnergieLand GmbH 😊
- Climate Chamber: In our case, it is a closed unit, in which plants can grow in an artificial and entirely controllable environment without any uncontrollable negative influences. We combine various perfectly matched technological components, to run a sustainable and profitable large-scale “Vertical Indoor Farming” plant production.
How does a BEL Vertical Indoor Farming Climate Chamber work?
The plants are grown on multiple levels by an automated system in a fully air-conditioned and energy self-sufficient “Climate Chamber”. According to the plant’s growth phase they are transported on panels and are provided with water, nutrients and the necessary light spectra through special adjustable LED technology.
This way plants can be harvested every day and all year round. Depending on the length of the growth-period of the plant species or variety they can be exchanged for another species/variety during the year. Like this you may also produce anti-cyclical to the market supply. To supply the plants with water and nutrients a so-called aeroponic system is used, meaning that the plant roots hang in the air and do not need any substrate.
The yield and the quality of the plants such as their taste and compounds can be influenced according to the plant’s growth phase via the supplied nutrients and the light formulas used.
The energy supply for the whole system is preferably self-sufficient (autarchic) by integration of renewable energy sources and energy storage systems.
For our production we use in-house developed databank-supported software algorithms in combination with control systems for the process engineering and robotics. As a result, everything runs automatically including the adjustment of the LED light spectra, the nutrient solution distribution, CO₂ enrichment of the air, it’s humidity and temperature. The production of seedlings and the harvest of the plants can be precisely controlled by the operator of the Climate Chamber according to her/his requirements.
With our system we can produce 365 days a year, regardless of weather conditions and with significantly higher yields than possible in conventional agriculture. At the same time, we use a minimal base area for production, because we go vertical.
All this without the use of pesticides, without environmental pollution and with minimal input of water and nutrients!
How can your plants grow without soil? What does aeroponics mean?
The word “aeroponics” is derived from the Greek words “aero” (air) and “ponos” (work).
The air is a key part of aeroponic growing. That is why aeroponics is sometimes referred to as “air culture”.
This way you can grow plants completely without the use of a substrate or soil and thus avoid all pathogens that naturally live in the soil.
At BEL, the plant roots, which are completely exposed to the air, are sprayed with a solution of water and nutrients tailored to the respective plant and its current growth phase.
Our plants get exactly what they need and nothing more. As a result, we use fewer raw materials and protect the environment at the same time.
Are your Vertical Indoor Farms sustainable?
We – BioEnergieLand – rely entirely on renewable energies and sustainable heat production systems such as biomass cogeneration plants.
We produce our own electricity and convert it into light and heat. Energy surpluses are being stored and made available through our energy storage systems.
This allows us to produce climate-neutrally and regionally 365 days a year! In addition, we only use 10% of the water usually required in conventional plant production and do not use any pesticides in our controlled and closed cultivation system.
Isn't the energy consumption for Vertical Indoor Farming too high?
Many scientists believe that Vertical Indoor Farming cannot be economically viable, because the energy costs for the LED-technology used for the plant production process are too high.
That is why we decided, right from the beginning, to operate our BEL Climate Chambers entirely relying on renewable energy sources in combination with the most modern energy storage systems. We see our climate chambers not only as Vertical Indoor Farms of the latest generation, but rather as sustainable power plants that support the achievement of the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.
The renewable energy obtained is refined during our production process and delivers plant-based products of the highest quality. We convert the sun’s energy directly into electricity and artificial light and make it available to the plants for photosynthesis.
The energy cycle is thus closed. That is why we are also called BioEnergieLand 😊!
How is it possible that you use 90% less water than in conventional agriculture?
Our modern, innovative and automated Climate Chamber has many sensors and uses monitoring systems to generate optimal plant growth conditions. The plants only get as much water as they use and need. The water that the plants transpire and release into the air is collected and returned to the system.
The water is recycled and permanently circulated!
This significantly reduces water and nutrient consumption. The valuable resource can only get out of the system by being bound within the plant, which itself consists of water to a great extent.
In this way we save 90% water compared to conventional agriculture. The use of closed Vertical Indoor Farms is therefore particularly beneficial in arid and semi-arid areas and can contribute to improving living conditions in countries that are suffering from the consequences of climate change.
What contribution are you making to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement?
The Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations (UN), the so-called SDGs, are 17 goals that deal with the global challenges we face and which we want to achieve together as a global community. The Paris Agreement was created to protect the climate for future generations.
BEL BioEnergieLand GmbH has set itself the overarching goal of contributing to a more sustainable and fair future. Our BEL Climate Chambers are designed so they can also be set up in structurally weak regions of the world that are struggling with water and food shortages, high unemployment rates, environmental, climate and other problems.
In our Climate Chambers we can produce 365 days a year, regardless of the weather and season. Thanks to constant cultivation conditions we deliver more consistent, reliable and higher yields compared to conventional agriculture and contribute to increasing food security.
We use renewable energies for the self-sufficient (autarchic) energy supply of our Climate Chambers. Different renewable energy sources can be used according to the needs of the respective location.
The overproduction of energy can provide the opportunity to feed it into the local power grid, thus ensuring regional access to a clean energy source. The construction of a BEL climate chamber therefore automatically means an investment in renewable energies and contributes to achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement.
If you would like to find out more about how we contribute to achieving the UN SDGs, please check out our page named “About”!
Which plants can be produced with BEL Climate Chambers and are they healthy and taste good?
You can produce all plant species and varieties that are requested by your customer. This includes edible plants such as herbs, lettuce, spices, vegetables and fruits. You can also produce medicinal or ornamental plants.
There are no limits!
Thanks to regional production and short supply chains just a few hours after harvest the plants can already be sold in e.g. supermarkets, restaurants. With our system the supply of fresh plant products can be maintained continuously, regionally and even off-season. With the help of the latest LED technology, we can also change the distribution of natural compounds occurring in the plants so they become particularly healthy and develop special flavors. The plants are constantly checked that is why we can offer and maintain this high production standard year round.
Are products from Vertical Indoor Farming certified as organic?
No. Unfortunately, products from Vertical Indoor Farms are currently not allowed to be certified organic, since the organic seal is only used for plants cultivated in soil. The plants in Vertical Indoor Farms are typically grown in hydroponics or aeroponics. (See: Question 4 What is aeroponics?)
At BEL we rely on the latest and most innovative cultivation method of aeroponics. In terms of quality and taste our plant products are just as good and, in some aspects, even better than certified organic products. With the help of the latest LED technology we can change the distribution of natural compounds in the plants so they become particularly healthy and develop special flavors.
We will work towards establishing our own Vertical Indoor Farming seal in future, with a focus on regionality, no pesticides used and climate-neutral production.
Do you use genetically modified seeds or plants for production?
No! We clearly distance ourselves from the use of genetically modified organisms in agriculture.
What hygiene measures are taken when producing plant products with a BEL climate chamber?
A BEL Climate Chamber is an entirely closed and insulated system = a so-called cleanroom.
No pests and contaminants from the external environment can enter into the Climate Chamber or affect the plants.
By using the aeroponic system you can grow plants completely without the use of a substrate or soil and thus avoid all pathogens that naturally live in the soil.
All laws and regulations regarding hygiene, contaminants and residues are obeyed. We developed our own HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) concept in order to ensure the highest standards of hygiene.
All the production process, starting from the production of young plants until the harvest, is carefully monitored by use of the installed monitoring systems. All transfers, entry points and exits are equipped with special locks and hygiene stations to protect the plants from potential contaminants.
This is also the reason why we do not need to use any pesticides, thereby making another valuable contribution for a more sustainable and better future!
Where will your first Vertical Indoor Farms be built, how big are they and can they be built anywhere in the world?
The first BEL Climate Chambers are built in Germany, in the federal state of Brandenburg, 50km from the city center of Berlin.
Further locations are already planned. It is part of our business model to market our Climate Chambers globally with various national and international partners.
Our systems are location-independent and scalable in size. Whether on agricultural land, in commercial areas, or in existing buildings in the city, BEL climate chambers can be built almost anywhere.
How do I become a partner/customer of BioEnergieLand?
We sell our sustainable, innovative and fully automated BEL Climate Chambers worldwide in the B2B market. You can purchase our “turnkey” systems to produce vegetables, fruits, herbs, salads, spices, medicinal plants, exotic plants and much more in optimal conditions. Finally, your products only need to be delivered to your regional customers.
If you are interested in our products and you also want to become a Grower of the Future, then contact us here with the subject “Partnership” and get to know our team and the products we offer in person.
How do I apply for a career at BEL?
Are you enthusiastic about our holistic and future-oriented concept?
Are you passionate and full of energy to improve the world for future generations?
Do you have a passion for sustainability and Vertical Indoor Farming?
Then apply now by clicking here with the subject “Job application” to become part of our team!
We look forward to your application!