Growing lettuce in LED-lit climate rooms rather than in a greenhouse with sunlight. This type of production in the new construction of Fresh-Care Convenience is called city or vertical farming.
But other than the term city farming suggests, this does not happen in the big city, but in the rural area. Eventually, we will make a substantial investment in the test at Fresh-Care Convenience. In the long term, more than one million kilos of lettuce will be produced in Dronten. The lettuce will then be processed in salads.
The vertical farm offers space for racks with eight or nine levels. The lettuce is grown in the racks inside coconut plugs with water and underneath LED-light. At this moment, we still source our lettuce in Southern-Europe during part of the year. The accompanying disadvantages are that the climate is erratic, and the transport distances are great. Once the vertical farm supplies the lettuce, it will be fresher, there won't be any pesticides involved, the quality will be stable, we will be able to plan the production better, and we will contribute to Staay Group's sustainability goals.
In traditional cultivation, it takes ten to fourteen weeks to produce lettuce; in the climate chambers, a crop of 100 to 150 grams can already be harvested after a limited number of weeks. The first units Lollo Biondo, Lollo Rosso, Rucola and Frisee from these climate rooms will reach the market as early as this year.
To develop the ultra-modern lettuce farm we work together in consortium with Philips Lighting, breeder Rijk Zwaan, and a few colleges and universities. Last year, we tested with various pilot installations on the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven, and the results are positive.
The test at Fresh-Care Convenience will be able to produce 300,000 kilos of lettuce annually. Future expansions have also been kept in mind; we have purchased plots of land around the new company building. This will ensure sufficient room for a future increase in scale.