- Founders: Nikolaos Alfieris
- Founded in: Wageningen, 2021
- Employees: 7
- Money raised: 26.000 euro
- Ultimate goal: Farmvent is revolutionizing indoor vertical farming with cutting-edge technologically advanced farms for indoor cultivation through innovations in automation and plant science.
The Wageningen-based start-up FarmVent is convinced that our food should be produced closer to the consumer; this way, our food travels fewer kilometers, there is greater transparency about the production process, and less food is wasted. Their solution? A vertical self-sustaining grow cabinet in which you can grow fresh leafy vegetables and herbs. In this instalment of Start-up of the Day, Nikolaos Alfieris, the brain behind FarmVent, talks to us about his vision.
What problem are you solving?
“Many people do not realise how far their fresh basil has traveled before it reaches their shopping basket. Of course, this holds true for many products in the supermarket, but it is even more true for herbs and leafy vegetables. It has to be grown somewhere in a warm country, from there it has to be transported by truck to the airport, from the airport it is flown to the Netherlands, then by truck to the trade market, from the trade market it goes to the distribution centre of the buyer, from the distribution centre it goes to the shops, you then buy it from the shops and you take it home. The quality and freshness of the product deteriorates enormously as a result. Then there is also produce that decomposes too quickly and ends up on the mountains of food waste, plus, there is also the ecological footprint that this whole process leaves behind. We are removing those middle links.”
Why opt for vertical farming?
“With automated vertical farming, you can control the production process yourself. You harvest what you need. In addition, the produce from our cabinets are so much tastier because there is no time between harvesting and theur use. With our grow cabinets, we want to decentralise agriculture by no longer growing vegetables in one place, but hyper-locally. From farm to fork!
How does your automated vertical farming system work?
“It is fully automated. The only thing the user needs to do sometimes is to top up the water. We make the complete grow cabinet ourselves, the hardware, like the housing of the cabinets, and the lighting, and so on. But the most important part of our grow cabinet is our software which is based on IoT, and machine learning. The software is important so that the full potential of a plant can be used. How can we make sure that the taste of the plant will remain at its best? When can it be harvested? If it doesn’t need to be harvested yet, how do we keep it alive? The user can see in an app when a vegetable has reached maturity, or if it needs watering. If a plant has ripened, but the user doesn’t need it yet, the greenhouse can be adjusted to prevent the plant from bolting. We monitor the cabinets from FarmVent and give the user advice.”
What are your plans for the next five years?
“At the moment, we are looking at what other plants we can grow in our growing cabinets.” But also how we can intensify the flavours of vegetables. That is the great thing about being affiliated with WUR. We hope to become an established name in Europe soon so that we can expand to the United States, for instance. If the grow cabinets work for companies, then we can start to look at how we can make an application for consumers.”