Tag: climate change

Netled CEO Niko Kivioja

‘Any Step Closer to Climate Neutrality Is An Important One’ | Q&A With Netled CEO Niko Kivioja   

Netled_IndoorAgContentVertical farming technology provider Netled and its client, Swedish herb supplier OMG (Oh My Greens), recently launched the first industrial-scale vertical farm delivering Climate Neutral Certified herbs from seed to shelf.  Indoor Ag-Con had the chance to catch up with Netled CEO Niko Kivioja to learn more about this exciting project, why it’s so important, and what’s on the horizon for this innovative company in this month’s CEO Q&A.

Why did OMG Choose Netled’s VERA® Technology for its new industrial scale vertical farm?

Swedish herb supplier OMG (Oh My Greens) produces 2.7 million heads of herbs annually for ICA, the leading grocery retailer in Sweden. Building a major facility with that kind of production capacity is very complex. OMG needed a technology provider who truly understands the technology and also has the experience and project delivery capabilities to carry out a project of that scale.

Oh My Greens industrial scale facility.indooragcontentWe call ourselves the one-stop shop for vertical farming, which means that on top of our proprietary Vera® technology we offer all services and support needed to build a commercially viable vertical farming business. This means we provide our customers with the design and planning of their facility, we ship the equipment, and we build, install and commission the farm. We support our customers in getting their farm up to production volumes. We also provide a five-year maintenance agreement to ensure the technology performs optimally.

It can be challenging to combine technology and services from different companies and ensure they work smoothly together. Plus you have to manage the various companies involved in the project. With Netled, you get the entire package under one roof. It’s simpler for the customer because all the various bits and pieces you need to build an industrial-scale vertical farm work seamlessly together. In a facility the size of the OMG project, those bits and pieces amount to around 120 000. So it’s no small feat.

OMG really did their homework in selecting a vertical farming partner. They will tell you themselves that they looked at 17 different providers before choosing Netled. They said that we are years ahead of the competition in terms of technology, know-how, and delivery capabilities. We are honored by that recognition.

What attracted you/Netled to the OMG project

OMG has the same level of ambition as we do: they want to succeed at vertical farming at an industrial scale and continue to grow from there. Our Vera® vertical farming technology is designed in a way that it’s scalable according to the customers’ needs and business case. The size and ambition of OMG’s project was perfect for our technology and service offerings. The growing area is about 25 800 square feet (2400 m2), and it is a big difference to make the automation work smoothly in that volume compared to smaller units.

Oh My Greens Vera vertical farm 2.indooragcontent
Photo Credit: ICA

We are also impressed by the fact that OMG’s customer is ICA, the largest retailer in Sweden. It is a very important step for us that such a significant player in the food retail industry takes a step towards vertically farmed products and sells them under their private label. Like us, they want to be at the forefront of developing a sustainable food system for the future.

We are very happy to see this development happening with big players like ICA, and we think it’s a good sign for the entire CEA industry. Vertically farmed produce is becoming more and more mainstream, and consumers will soon learn more about the benefits of this production method. Netled carried out consumer research this spring, and we found that only 11 % of Finnish consumers really knew what vertical farming was about. However, 95 % of the respondents were willing to buy vertically farmed products after learning more about the production method and its benefits.

It is clear that when major retailers incorporate vertically farmed products into their own store brand, it will open new conversations for us as technology providers.

The farm is described as the ‘first vertical farm in the world delivering Climate Neutral Certified herbs from seed to shelf.’  Can you share more about this designation and why it’s so important.

Oh My Greens Vera vertical farm.IndoorAgContent
Photo Credit: ICA

We are all in this battle against climate change together, and any step closer to climate neutrality is an important one for both OMG and Netled.

OMG is the first vertical cultivation in the world to deliver Climate Neutral Certified herbs following the Climate Neutral Certification programme. The owner of the standard is The Climate Neutral Group, a member of ICROA, the International Carbon Reduction & Offsetting Alliance. They follow strict criteria in terms of Verified Emission Reductions (VERs), and verification is carried out by independent, internationally recognized agencies.

Within this certificate, climate neutrality means both CO2 footprint reduction and compensation. OMG calculates their emissions footprint on a granular level including ingredients, storage, production, packaging, mobility, and upstream and downstream logistics until the products reach the shelf. The facility is built in an old steel factory and it operates with renewable energy: wind power. The remaining CO2 emissions are compensated by supporting an NGO’s agroforestry project of 214 hectares in India. The ultimate goal is to reduce the emissions every year until they reach a 0-emission supply chain.

Netled_WEB_4.indooragcontentNetled’s Vera® technology is designed to be as energy and resource-efficient as possible using up to 70% less energy and up to 95% less water than traditional indoor agriculture. It also allows customers to grow 2.5 times more crops in the same amount of space as greenhouse growing.

OMG’s vision is a world where food production is truly sustainable, and we as their technology provider are working towards the same goal. We are constantly striving to reduce emissions and this will be a work in progress as we develop our technology and processes.

What’s next for Netled – any other projects of this scale or other developments on the horizon?

We recently opened our first North American Vera® vertical farm as part of the launch of Netled North America in Calgary, Canada. The vertical farm in Calgary is a showcase facility for North American customers who want to see our Vera® technology firsthand. The demo unit features the same Vera® technology, but on a smaller scale. It will allow potential customers to see the technology up close and discuss their requirements with our experienced team in Calgary.

Netled_WEB_3.indooragcontentIn terms of other projects, we have just finished commissioning a compact-size Vera® farm in Poland, and we are currently building another industrial-scale facility in the Nordics. We are in the negotiating phase with other clients on some very exciting commercial-scale projects in Europe and North America, stay tuned for more details!

Learn more about Netled by visiting the company’s website — www.netled.fi

Jonathan Webb CEO AppHarvest Indoor Ag-Con 2022 Keynote

Farm of the Future: Q&A With AppHarvest CEO Jonathan Webb

Indoor Ag-Con is pleased to announce that AppHarvest CEO & Founder Jonathan Webb is joining our CEO Keynote line-up for the February 28-March 1, 2022 edition at Caesars Forum, Las Vegas.  His presentation, “How Tech In Farming Can Build A Resilient Food System,” will be on Monday, February 28,  from 11 — 11:50 am.

From building an AgTech hub in Central Appalachia to launching the “Fight the Food Fight” campaign to investing in and supporting high school AgTech education, learn more about how Jonathan and the AppHarvest team are working to solve today’s food and agriculture challenges in this month’s CEO Q&A.

It’s your home state, what are the conditions– efficiencies of scale, workforce, available water and other benefits that make Kentucky and Appalachia an ideal location for AppHarvest?

AppHarvest Kentucky is my home state and I do love it. But, it also makes sense strategically to build an AgTech hub in Central Appalachia for a few reasons:

  • Kentucky’s climate is well-suited for the industry. We grow using 100% rainwater and climate change is making the region wetter. In fact, the past decade has seen the most rainfall in Kentucky history with three of those years being the wettest on record. If you’re growing products that are up to 95% water like fruits and vegetables, you need to be where water is available.
  • The strategic location of our flagship farm in Morehead, Ky., allows AppHarvest to provide sustainable produce to up to 70% of the United States population within a day’s drive.This approach gets food closer to where it’s consumed, shortens transportation time significantly and reduces diesel use by as much as 80%.
  • Labor is another reason. With industries such as coal and tobacco going away, the region needs more jobs for a skilled workforce, and we are able to tap into that labor pool for our high-tech farms.

What historic milestones are comparable to what AppHarvest is attempting with the Farm of the Future? Automotive assembly line? 1960s space race? Why?

At AppHarvest, we believe that controlled environment agriculture (CEA) is the third wave of sustainable infrastructure. In my experience working on major solar projects with the U.S. Department of Defense, the first wave was 20 years ago with renewable energy. The second wave came 10 years later when Tesla made electric vehicles popular in the mainstream. Now, we’re in the third wave and it’s CEA using a combination of nature supported by technology to produce a lot more food with fewer resources. We’re using artificial intelligence and robotics to make data-driven decisions to farm more efficiently and better predict crop yield.

What was the rationale behind the “Fight the Food Fight” campaign and how are sales going with your “Food Fight“ salsa?

AppHarvest fight The Food Fight CampaignChange begins with education. We recognized the need for a consumer movement to encourage folks to learn where their food comes from and understand that their purchases matter. The Fight the Food Fight campaign is a call to action that asks consumers to join us in creating a more resilient food system designed for the long-term wellbeing of people and planet by supporting products that promote sustainable farm operations and good, living-wage jobs in agriculture.

In early November 2021, we introduced our first product tied to the campaign, called the Food Fight Salsa. The main ingredient is AppHarvest tomatoes and all other ingredients are U.S.-grown. The salsa sold out within a few weeks and is back in stock on our direct-to-consumer website at shop.appharvest.com. We ask you to Fight the Food Fight with us!

Can you share a little about what AppHarvest is doing on the AgTech education front to help train the next generation of farmers, specifically with regard to your collaboration with Eastern Kentucky High Schools.

AppHarvest High School AgTech EducationAs we work to build a hub of sustainable agriculture in Central Appalachia, we know we need to create an AgTech ecosystem with good education at all levels. That’s why we are investing in the next generation of farmers and futurists by supporting high school AgTech education. We have launched seven container farms since the start of our program, with a goal to have 20 across Central Appalachia to serve as a model across the U.S.

Jonathan Webb Container Launch App HarvestThese free-standing training facilities are made from shipping containers retrofitted with the latest sustainable agriculture technology, including energy-efficient LED grow lights and a closed-loop irrigation system that teaches students how to use up to 90% less water and grow up to 30 times more food in the same amount of space compared to traditional open-field agriculture. One container farm classroom can produce the equivalent of three to five acres of traditional agriculture, and the technology in each unit is a good example of what AppHarvest employees use every day on a larger scale.

Where do you see AppHarvest 5 or 10 years from now – what’s your ultimate goal?

The world’s food and agriculture problems are not going to be solved in the short-term. The AppHarvest team sees our journey to create a resilient food system taking decades. We’re at the beginning and working hard to create shareholder value now that will still be there in decades two and three. We want to help build a sustainable organization that will be able to go toe-to-toe with the larger incumbents globally.

One way we’re doing this is by growing to scale. In addition to our 60-acre high-tech farm in Morehead, which can produce an estimated 40 million pounds of tomatoes per year, we are expanding our farm network to include three more farms expected to be operational by the end of 2022. The 15-acre Berea, Ky., leafy green facility and the 60-acre Richmond, Ky., tomato facility are both approximately 60% complete, and the 30-acre Somerset, Ky., berry facility is more than 40% complete. A fifth farm, the 10-acre Morehead North leafy green facility has an expected 2023 delivery. The company is working toward a longer-term goal of up to 12 farms by 2025.

AppHarvest isn’t going to save agriculture on its own. We know that a number of large companies will be working to solve our food and agriculture problems, and we intend to be one of them.

Learn more about AppHarvest by visiting their website — www.appharvest.com —  and register today to join us for the Indoor Ag-Con to hear Jonathan’s keynote address!

Case Study:Percival Scientific and Iowa State University Collaborate on The Effects of Climate Change on Plant Growth

Percival Scientific Case StudyPercival Scientific Case Study:  When researchers from the Plant Sciences Institute at Iowa State University asked Percival Scientific to collaborate on a first-of-its-kind research facility with customized chambers that could be accessed by a robotic rover, the Percival engineering team jumped at the chance.

The multidisciplinary project, called Enviratron, was initially funded by the National Science Foundation and led by Dr. Stephen Howell, Distinguished Professor and Director of the Plant Sciences Institute. He is also former Director of the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences at the National Science Foundation in Washington, D.C.

“It has been a wonderful collaboration,” says Howell. “We have worked very closely with the engineers at Percival. They have been very interested in a project that had some very unique challenges, and we have helped each other through it.”

Testing Plants Against Climate Change

“What we are really trying to do is test various plants, selected for certain traits, for their ability to respond to different environmental conditions,” explains Howell.

The project focuses on staple crops such as corn, soybeans and rice, as well as bioenergy crops like switch grass, to identify plant genotypes most able to withstand climate changes. “This is a parameter on which no research has been done thus far,” he adds.

The Obstacles of Climate-Based Research

Up to this point, testing the impact of climate changes on plants typically has been done by planting them in various locations with different environmental conditions and then making observations and taking measurements.Percival Scientific and Iowa State University Case Study This approach is fraught with shortcomings, including the inability to isolate the plants from multiple influences other than climate as well as the inability to manipulate the climate to reflect anticipated future conditions.

Current research facilities using plant growth chambers can only provide one climatic model at a time. This limitation reduces the scope of any study to a single variable: the genotype of the plants. And while current facilities provide consistent environmental conditions as compared to outdoors, they still require removing and transporting plants for sampling, which exposes them to uncontrollable elements that introduce uncertainty in the research results.

Chambers Designed for Automated Testing

Howell and his team worked with Percival to solve these challenges by creating a fully isolated research facility. It contains eight independent chambers which are accessed by a robotic rover that samples and tests plants within the chambers without altering or contaminating the environment. It’s the first facility to conduct automated phenotyping of plants under a variety of environmental conditions in a single experiment.

The rover, which was developed with the help of the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, is fully automated, allowing 24-hour research testing using a holographic camera, hyper-spectral sensor, fluorescence detector and a Raman scattering spectrometer. The rover collects precise location-specific data, resulting in improved sampling strategies and data quality. “The mountains of high-quality data coming out of this project will be staggering,” says Howell, when comparing the accuracy, consistency and productive time of automated testing to that of lab technicians.

Percival specially designed the chambers to accommodate the rover, which enters the chamber through an airlock. After the environment has been equilibrated between the airlock and the chamber, a divider raises to allow the robot access to the plants.

These are not your standard chambers,” says Steve Whitham, Iowa State University Professor, Plant Pathology and Microbiology. “They’ve been designed from the ground up specifically for the Enviratron project.

 

Percival Takes On the Challenges

“Here at the Roy J Carver Co-Laboratory we have a number of Percival chambers that we have had for many years. They have proven to be very reliable, so we were very confident about working with Percival on this project,” explains Howell, echoing the opinion of universities and colleges around the country. He adds that the opportunity to work with an Iowa-based company was a plus as well.Percival Scientific and Iowa State

“Designing chambers to be accessible via a robot was just the beginning of the challenges presented to Percival when we began the project,” said Henry Imberti, Senior VP of Engineering for Percival Scientific.

This project necessitated the design of new chamber features, such as an actuated, sliding vestibule door. Not only did the door need to accommodate the unique size of the rover, but it also needed to be remotely actuated through the chamber’s central control system.

Additionally, the door opening required a smooth threshold to accommodate the specialized wheel system on the rover while maintaining an adequate seal when closed to ensure environmental conditions inside the experiment space remained undisturbed.

Another aspect requiring significant development was the optimization of the vestibule environment. The main objective was to retain environmental conditions inside the chamber per specifications throughout all operating scenarios.

A secondary goal was to minimize system complexity for various reasons, including initial cost, energy efficiency and ease of maintenance. In the end, Percival was able to develop and deploy a design to satisfy both of these criteria.

Other design challenges included tight control of temperature, humidity, CO2, photo period, light irradiance, light quality, air movement and water potential in the soil. The chambers also had to accommodate a variety of crops such as maize, soybeans, tobacco, rice, switch grass and low light species. Finally, Percival needed to keep the design costs within budget.

The Specifications

Percival was able to deliver on the design requirementsand then some. Design features included:

  • Growth Area 21.5 ft² (2.0 m²)
  • Exterior Dimensions

Width 106̎ (269 cm)

Depth 84̎ (213 cm)

Height 138̎ (350 cm)

  • Maximum Growing Height 106̎ (269 cm)
  • Light Intensity 1720 μmoles/m²/sec at 36̎ (91 cm)

from the lamps

  • Temperature Range (Lights on @ 100%) 10°C to 44°C
  • % Relative Humidity Control Range

40% to 80% from 15°C to 30°C (Lights on @ 100%)

  • CO2 Control Range 100 to 5000 μmol/mol

An Air-flow design optimized through the use of CFD (computational fluid dynamics) software. The design bypass system reduces unwanted leaf movement produced by air currents while the rover is attempting to take measurements.Percival Case Study

Electrically-actuated lamp canopy that adjusts the height of the lamp bank to be closer to the plant canopy for other future light sources such as LEDs.

DALI dimmable lighting allows each ceramic metal halide bulb to dim individually, enhancing the chamber’s ability to produce highly uniform light intensity across the growing space.

Unique software applications include Percival’s propriety WeatherEze, which gives Howell and his team the ability to program the chamber environment to simulate growing conditions from all over the world.

Percival’s IntellusUltra Control System provides a touchscreen interface as well local and remote data collection and cloud storage.

The Global Impact

While melting polar ice caps and rising tides in South Beach are the go-to shots for photojournalists covering climate change, a much less obvious, but no less serious, change is occurring in the breadbaskets of the world.

Climate change threatens the parameters of regional growing seasons. Iowa State University and Percival Scientific support urgentlyneeded research to identify those genetic traits amongour food crops that will withstand the gradual changes  in environment that are already occurring. Enviratron will permit scientists to incrementally alter critical variables in keeping with projected changes. It will help prepare the agricultural community, from the research scientist to the farmer in the field, to continue providing the products that sustain the world’s population, a task of the highest priority.

For more information, please visit www.percival-scientific.com, call 1.800.695.2743 or email info@percival-scientific.com.