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They are a feast for the eyes: the vertical farms of the Berlin-based Lite & Fog. However, they are more than just good looking. The farms are an upgraded version of traditional vertical farms. By using a zero-gravity irrigation system, ultrasound and AI, the company is making sure plants are grown the best way possible, perfect for the development of cultivated meat. And there are many more applications. “Our machines will transform the pharmaceutical, cosmetic, and agricultural industries”, ceo and co-founder Martin Peter says.  

Why you need to know this:

Advanced vertical farms are indispensable in a future where sustainable food is central.

Martin Peter, co-founder of Lite&Fog

A brief glance at the start-up’s website, with a crisp picture of the high-tech system on the front page, was all it took to affirm that a visit would be rewarding. So I grabbed my recorder and went there to talk to Martin Peter, enjoying a cup of coffee in a large warehouse where the machines are set up.

Peter’s journey began with a unique blend of studies in physics, philosophy, and art. “The idea came during my time in Israel, where water scarcity and technological challenges prompted me to explore the use of fog for more efficient plant growth.” He didn’t do it alone, though. “I was daunted by the prospect of spreadsheets and other paperwork involved in starting a business, so I asked my father to join me. Together, we embarked on this adventure.”

Lite&Fog, founded in 2019, focuses on vertical farms that are, amongst others, needed for molecular farming. This type of farming is focused on growing genetically modified plants to produce proteins, medicines, or other valuable substances. The vertical farms of the start-up enable plants to thrive in sterile environments, devoid of traditional soil, by cultivating them on thin, fabric-supported structures and nourishing them through nutrient-enriched fog. Pesticides aren’t needed anymore. The company sells machinery rather than the plants themselves. “So we see ourselves as machine builders”, Peter explains. 

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Zero-gravity irrigation

What really sets Lite & Fog apart from traditional vertical farms is the use of fogponics: tiny droplets of water that are small enough to float and to enter the roots of the plants directly, Martin explains to me while we walk along the farms arranged in a large workshop. Those droplets are created by ultrasound and carry tiny amounts of nutrients to the root zone, requiring nothing but a small breezing wind to reach their target.

Graph 1: (Predicted) vertical farming market worldwide from 2022 to 2032 (In billion euros). Source: Statista

Making good use of AI

Another notable feature is the integration of AI into the system. It monitors and assesses plant growth, providing precise data on development and health. “See it as a skilled gardener. For instance, by adjusting factors like light intensity, we can foresee how the plant will respond to this change.”

Impressive results

The utilization of these advanced technologies yields remarkable results. According to Peter, the smart farm produces 400 times greater crop yields and uses 95 percent less water compared to conventional farming, and 50 percent energy reduction compared to vertical farming.

Cellular meat

Currently, the start-up is establishing its presence in the market. With customers in the UK, Israel, and Qatar, their focus is on building a team, securing investors, and expanding their reach.

Amongst others, the start-up partnered with Bright Biotech from the UK. This start-up’s technology harnesses valuable proteins in the chloroplasts of plants for cultivated meat companies. Peter explains: “Bright Biotech cultivates tobacco plants that are needed to produce meat from cells. However, they lack the means to achieve a wanted daily output of 20 tonnes. This is precisely where our expertise lies. With our machines, we ensure the most efficient cultivation of tobacco plants, optimizing their growth process to the fullest extent.”    

The benefits of cultivated meat

Cellular agriculture involves using advanced biological methods to create products like proteins and fats for food without traditional farming. This innovative approach offers a more sustainable food supply chain by significantly reducing emissions, land and water usage, and providing flexibility in manufacturing locations. According to Oxford University, cultivated meat could have up to 96% lower greenhouse gas emissions, 45% less energy consumption, 99% lower land use, and 96% lower water use than conventional meat, making it an environmentally friendly choice.

Other applications

But it doesn’t stop there, the smart farms can also prove highly beneficial for the medical industry. Think about life saving vaccines, antibodies and bioanalytics. “With our machines, you can, for instance, grow mRNA-producing plants that could be used for vaccines. We are looking for partnerships in this playfield as well.” 

In short: Lite & Fog enables innovation in numerous sectors. “So why are all the vertical farms mainly producing lettuce again?”, Peter laughs.

A cultural shift

Though, in the future, the company wants to contribute to making the food sector future-proof. Peter has his future with Lite & Fog crystal clear. “In ten years from now, we want to produce 50 farms a month, each capable of growing 20 tonnes of food per week.” 

That seems like a lot, but it is essential to provide enough food in the future. “Climate change, characterized by extreme weather conditions and prolonged droughts, presents significant hurdles for farmers. Additionally, soil contamination from fertilizers, diminishing space availability, and other factors contribute to the need for a reevaluation of agricultural practices. Ultimately, the primary challenge at hand revolves mainly around fostering a cultural shift”, Peter concludes.

After the interview, Martin and I take one final stroll along the farms. A place like this is certainly not a punishment to work in, I think as I catch one last glimpse of the green plants before getting back into the car to get back home.