Our CEO Niko Kivioja was interviewed by the international Association of Vertical Farming, AVF, about the future of Netled and vertical farming. In the first part of the interview, we will share Niko’s thoughts on Netled and the future of the company. The second part of the interview will be published in February and covers Niko’s insights on global vertical farming markets and future trends.
How did Netled come to regard vertical farming as the future of the company?
My father started organic tomato greenhouse production, one million kilograms annually, in 1987. That was our family business for 25 years until he retired. We started to develop more energy efficient lighting for that greenhouse in 2005 and established Netled Oy in 2007 to facilitate the R&D. Focus in vertical farming started by joint development, a 500 sq m project to Robbe’s Lilla Trädgård in 2015.
We’ve been supplying technology already in 7 industrial type vertical farms scaling from 100 to 4500 sq m.
How do you select the technologies that you are currently using?
Our core team has 25 years of experience in commercial horticulture and CEA growing. We have learned from the best possible practices and technologies from these fields, modified them to fit into vertical farming and topped that with our special design for vertical farms such as automation integration, LED lighting, racking design, climate design and energy re-circulation as well as processing design, just to mention few.
We differ from many other suppliers by our own integrated design in all parts of our Vera® Vertical Farm. There are no third-party suppliers of commercially available equipment. This allows us to have the best knowledge of the technology and take the technology risk to ourselves.
How is Netled’s own Vera® the most advanced vertical farming system in the world?
Vera® Vertical Farming System is an ecosystem-level combination of technology, services and IT, developed especially for industrial scale vertical farming. This means that Vera® is all inclusive technology with verified yields and technical performance, topped with maintenance and outsourced technology risk. I like to call us a technology partner instead of equipment supplier, because we are aiming at long-term partnerships instead of quick sales.
In addition to performance, we’ve also developed the best possible layout and material flow allowing optimized internal logistics expenses and labor costs. So, we are developing our system from the smallest detail to the overall general, making sure all parts are planned to serve best possible performance.
Our automation level consists from full-automatic growing environment, growing cycle for crop logistics (transplanting and spacing) and full-automatic harvesting, platform processing and replanting of crops. We have developed Vera OS, high-level software, for advanced care of crops, while our hardware level automation is designed as robust and highly integrated. Vera OS has 53 parameters for static and dynamic care for each layer/crop, making the total of 318 parameters in each production unit. These parameters are packed into growing programs with the closest description being the recipe.
Standard growing recipes are supplied with the facility, but we also allow our clients to develop their own recipes. We develop constantly our own recipes, so our clients have the best possible recipe for their crop. From this perspective, Vera® constantly improves its yield and performance. The well-working recipe can also be copied to any Vera® Vertical Farming System, because of our standardized, but easily scalable and modular technology with same growing results. This allows Vera® growers to make also additional income or focus purely on recipe development and sales.
We offer Vera® in proof of concept scale with 96 sq m production area and industrial scale modular system with 1000 to 7000 sq m production area in a single production unit.
The article is based on an interview conducted by the Association of Vertical Farming.