The first batch of indoor grown basil was harvested at the Delphy Improvement Centre,. Since May, Lisanne Meulendijks has been working on the development of practical cultivation knowledge for Vertical Farms. Growth factors such as climate, light and irrigation can easily be varied in the test chambers.
Because of this flexibility, experiments can be conducted to see how cultivation in a Vertical Farm can be optimized. The focus is on analyzing the plant’s growth process. In a Vertical Farm, the plant influences its own growing environment relatively strongly which creates a microclimate around the crop that deviates from the controlled climate in the chamber.
The degree of exchange between these climates depends on the design of the Vertical Farm. In order to fully utilize the potential of a Vertical Farm, optimization of the growth recipes should be based on this principle, because it is ultimately the microclimate that controls the growth of the plant.
By approaching the research from this angle and looking at the effect of the different cultivation factors on the plant, it is possible to formulate growing advice that is specific for different Vertical Farming facilities.
The first experiment looked at the effect of increasing light intensity on the growth of basil, in combination with testing different types of substrate. By using sensors on and around the plant, the growth was closely monitored and could be linked to the microclimate between the crop and the macro climate in the cell. This led to interesting and tasty first results, says Lisanne.
Investigating business questions
The graph shows the relation between increasing light intensity and annual production: the more light, the steeper the curve, the faster the plants growth. The fact that the plant grows faster with more light is of course nothing new.
What makes these results interesting is that each growth curve can be expressed in a formula and the error margin around the curves is small, Lisanne explains. This is because the growing conditions within a Vertical Farm are completely under control. Cultivation practices can then be optimized using the formulas behind these kind of curves.
It becomes possible to formulate answers to questions such as: “How does an investment in extra light affect my yield? How many days after germination is best to harvest to maximize my yield?”
These are important business aspects for production. "Through our application-oriented research, we develop knowledge that responds to these kinds of practical questions."
Fresh weight of the basil plotted as a function of light intensity and days after germination.
This experiment is part of the Fieldlab Vertical Farming South Holland project. This project has in part been made possible by the European Fund for Regional Development of the European Union and a contribution from the Province of South Holland.
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