As a business school student Maarten Vandecruys became fascinated by robotized plant factories with artificial lighting (PFALs). Just a few years later, he’s running one of Europe’s largest indoor vertical farming labs.
In the small town of Waregem, the test farm at Urban Crop Solutions is completely closed to the outside, and everything here is controlled. Using LED lights and hydroponics, it is relatively sterile so no pesticides are needed. With 8 layers of crops, Vandecruys says the 30-square-meter room can produce up to 220 mature lettuce plants per day. Their “Plant Factory” system can be built as high as 25 layers.
The company has also developed a shipping container version: their “Farm Pro” is a 40-foot fully automated freight container with a four-layer, leafy green growing system.
While the pinkish-purple-lit farms feel too futuristic for something as ancient as farming, Vandecruys insists it’s not so much am agro-revolution as an evolution. “I see it as the next step, we went from open fields to greenhouse to indoor, and this will definitely not be applied for all crops, but it will be for more and more crops as technology increases.”