More underground, Green Forges grows vegetables on an underground farm system | Today Nation News

TechnologyMore underground, Green Forges grows vegetables on an underground...

When you think of a vertical farm, you usually think of it growing toward the sky. Companies such as Aerofarms, Plenty, and Gotham Greens are about to revolutionize agriculture by loading high-rise plants with cultivation equipment. However, one person seems to be focusing on the basement. That person is Philippe Labrie. CEO and founder of GreenForges, a pre-seed underground farming startup founded in 2019, he is considering introducing vertical farm technology underground. Early in his career, he also looked at the sky in a rooftop greenhouse looking for agricultural potential, but realized that the sky had its limits.

Lovely says: “I happened to find a paper analyzing how much food production capacity a rooftop greenhouse in an urban area has.” “It was a low figure of 2-5% in 2050. Everyone said,’Underground. Can’t you grow it in the garden? “

There have always been restrictions on agriculture, which is a space-based business. 12,000 years ago, when farming began, people carved out forests into farmland. This destruction of nature is still going on. More land is needed for farmers to grow more food and make more profits. Traditional vertical farms try to solve this problem of conversion of farmland by installing plants in urban areas and stacking cultivation equipment. However, the problem of plant land still remains. So Green Forges is trying to take advantage of the unused space (underground) at our feet.

After two years of research and development, the company plans to launch the first pilot underground farm system in northern Montreal in the spring of 2022 in collaboration with agricultural technology incubator Zone Agtech. GreenForges’ agricultural system takes a novel approach in addition to existing indoor farming management techniques such as LED lighting control, hydroponics (soilless cultivation), and humidity and temperature control.

Instead of using a large plant, GreenForges’ system drills a 1-meter-diameter hole in the ground beneath a newly built building and drops cultivation equipment there. During maintenance and harvesting, it is mechanically lifted to the surface and repaired and harvested by humans. This pilot program will use a system 15 meters underground, but has planned a farm system up to 30 meters underground.

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    In the GreenForges system, cultivation equipment is mechanically lifted from an underground vertical farm, allowing users to easily harvest leafy vegetables on the ground (image credit: GreenForges).

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    Image credit: GreenForges

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    Image credit: GreenForges

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    Image credit: GreenForges

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    Image credit: GreenForges

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    Image credit: GreenForges

Moving vertical farms from above ground to underground has many advantages, according to Lovely, some of which can solve the biggest obstacle faced by environmentally controlled agriculture, energy costs. ..

“The constant need to keep the air conditioning system up and running in response to changes in the outside climate, such as heat, cold, rainfall and dryness, is the greatest energy load for vertical farms. Stabilizes the indoor environment. That’s why we need an air conditioning system, “says Lovely.

Due to this energy cost issue, vertical farms can be expensive in terms of both carbon dioxide emissions and monetary value compared to traditional farming methods, which is why many vertical farms grow only leafy vegetables. That’s one of the reasons. In other words, the cultivation of other crops is too energy-intensive and unprofitable. However, if you go underground, the problem of “maintaining a stable environment indoors even if the weather changes” is solved at once.

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Jamil Madanat, Engineering Manager at GreenForges, said: “As soon as you go underground, you will be able to grow it regardless of the season.” “Underground is the sacred place for energy saving.”

According to Madanato, the temperature of the underground is stable anywhere in the world, anytime, in any environment. Regardless of temperature changes on the ground, Malaysia has a stable temperature of 20 ° C at a depth of 10 meters, and Canada has a stable temperature of 10 ° C at a depth of 5 meters.

“When it comes to supplying electricity and energy, there are economic benefits if conditions are stable,” says Madanato. “It is not good for the power grid to consume a lot of energy at once and stop it suddenly. Stable demand (supply) is also preferable for the power grid.”

If the outside temperature of the underground facility is stable and the energy demand is also stable as a result, it will lead to large-scale energy saving and sustainability. In GreenForges, half of the plants are illuminated during the day and the other half are illuminated at night to ensure that the energy applied to the lights is always the same for further stabilization.

In addition, GreenForges targets only areas where most of the energy is covered by renewable energies such as solar and hydropower so as not to increase carbon dioxide emissions to the environment from burning fossil fuels.

“It just doesn’t make sense to burn something and grow food indoors,” Lovely said.

GreenForges predicts that underground systems will be 30-40% more energy efficient than traditional vertical farms. Currently, the company only deals with traditional indoor crops such as leafy vegetables, herbs and berries. According to the company’s plan, a farm 30 meters underground can produce about 2,400 lettuce monthly and about 6,400 kg annually. But Lovely hopes that if GreenForges becomes more efficient, it will be able to accommodate other vegetables and crops, such as wheat, which can be used as meat substitutes in the future.

Cultivation in the basement is not without obstacles. According to Madanato, the challenge is to design a cultivation device that fits in a tunnel that fits in a tunnel that has only two tires on a truck. In order to fit the system in such a small space, it is necessary to develop a unique hardware solution. There is also a fight against underground moisture.

Unlike the pioneers of vertical farms, Plenty and Aerofarms, Green Forges doesn’t want to be a grocery brand. Instead, it focuses on creating new revenue streams by appealing to high-rise hotel and condominium builders and providing fresh vegetables to guests and residents.

“By incorporating it into a building, we’ve seen a lot of potential, and we’re also interested in hotel companies and real estate developers,” says Lovely. “Incorporating a food production system into a building is not as easy as it looks, because it sacrifices space in commercial facilities and condominiums, which have very high unit prices per square meter. With our solution, underground space It is possible to monetize. “

Image credit: GreenForges

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(Sentence: Jesse Klein, Translation: Dragonfly)


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