“Swiss Vertical Farm” a self-managed vertical indoor garden

Farms often extend outdoors over large horizontal areas. With Charrat-based start-up Swiss Vertical Farm, our benchmark field has been shaken a bit. Here, the vegetable garden is in fact positioned vertically, compactly and placed inside, directly in the heart of the habitat (in the living room, in the kitchen, in the cellar, etc.). LEDs replace for 8-9 hours in the sun to ensure good performance. Welcome to urban farmland!

Terra, however, you will not see in this 2.0 farm. Here, hydroponics is used, that is, a culture of plants carried out in a neutral and inert substrate, in this case based on recycled PET bottles. The set is placed in a tower of about 1.5 meters made of plastic, also recycled. On top, a drip system, a mixture of water and natural nutrients (potassium, nitrate, etc.). The droplets flow into the substrate in which the plants have taken root, before being collected in a container located at the foot of the installation. Then, under the influence of a bomb, they are sent back to the top, and it is turned off again for several cycles!

long term savings

Thanks to sensors and a microcomputer, the Swiss Vertical Farm is completely autonomous. “Our closed circuit system evaluates the amount of nutrients that must be placed in the tank according to the state of growth of the plants”, details Johnny Duarte, the creator of the project. As the whole is automated, the owner of the suspended garden, adjustable according to the number of people present in the house, has almost nothing to do. However, it has a dedicated app that alerts you to insufficient water or nutrients – the update is done by adding the missing minerals and trace elements, which are in the bottles delivered with the grow kit. Your other task is to transplant new pieces of seed after 3 or 4 months of use. “We will sell local plants at 3.50 francs each,” specifies the inventor from Valais. Even though the initial investment cost is quite substantial (890 francs for the base model, editor’s note), it is quickly amortized and ends up costing less in the long run than a supermarket supply.

Beneficial for the consumer and the planet

In addition to the autonomy provided by this sustainable system and the savings to be made, the consumer also benefits from greater transparency regarding the origin of the product that ends up on their plate, the constant quality and freshness of the vegetables. at your fingertips, available year-round and certified free of GMOs or pesticides. “As the culture is not practiced in the soil, I cannot claim the organic denomination, but we do not use any chemicals”, he specifies. My fruits, herbs and vegetables also meet a demand from consumers who want to eat everything, like strawberries, all year round.”

The planet also thanks Swiss Vertical Farm. Closed-loop irrigation reduces the amount of water needed by 90% compared to conventional farming methods. Johnny Duarte gives the example of a lettuce. On a traditional farm we use 11.5 liters of water, while on a vertical farm it is limited to 0.5 liters! In addition, avoid the risk of possible contamination of water sources or the consequent impact linked to the transport of food. One would be tempted to say that this project seems to flow naturally! “I hope that my invention will allow a paradigm shift, namely by limiting waste”, notes Johnny Duarte.

However, the entrepreneur is faced with a big problem: his vertical garden obviously does not work with fruit trees and tubers, such as carrots or potatoes. “We limited ourselves to small fruits, herbs and some vegetables, such as salads, he admits. But this already allows an interesting food independence in relation to certain foods.

The future? Finalize the design of the towers and packaging, then launch marketing before the end of the year – pre-orders are now possible. Notice to urban gardeners.

Frederic Rein

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