In talks with Alessandro Oliveri – CEO & Co-Founder at igrox srl, Italy ahead of Global Vertical Farming Show in DUBAI.
Alessandro is speaking at the 2nd Global Vertical Farming Show this week on July 27th & 28th at Conrad, Dubai. As we are inching closer to the trade-show, in a recent interview, he shared his insights about innovations in LED technology to achieve energy optimization for Vertical Farming industry.
What are the topics you expect to highlight at this year’s event in terms of technology and also in terms of development in the industry?
Alessandro: After some years of increasing investments, I think that the vertical farming industry needs to demonstrate to be one of the answers to the global food production issue. In order to give this answer, all the players need to focus on sustainability. We already have some great results in terms of reduction of land and water consumption and production of healthy food but we still need to work on financial and energy sustainability. We perfectly know that both things come together, so if we get a reduction of energy consumption, we can lower cost of production and improving financial sustainability.
In igrox we work every day on improving efficacy of our LED technology and, according to our models, we are already at the point to have financial sustainability with our technology.
But once we are sustainable, we still need to feed the world…and you cannot do it only with salads. If we want to answer to the actual demand for food security, the next step is increasing protein content of foods we can cultivate in CEA and vertical farms.
Even in this field igrox wants to drive the transformation, we believe that microalgae cultivation for superfood production is one of the answers and we have already developed a controlled environment to grow fresh, healthy and local microalgae in vertical photobioreactors. We already have recipes to add fresh microalgae to juices, pesto, pasta, chocolate…in other words we have a complete solution ready to use.
What are the changes that you are seeing ahead of this year’s event in terms of people and company participating? Are you seeing larger companies taking part? More international companies?
Alessandro: I think that almost every country in the world is experimenting with issues related to food security or land and water consumption. We all are recognizing that our development model has a bug. That’s the reason why more and more people, companies and investors are starting to look at CEA and vertical farming as one of the possible solutions. I believe that the actual increasing interest in our industry will be a trend for the next years.
What do you think the MENA region will represent during the next decade for the indoor vertical farming industry? Will it be a catalyst for many companies’ growth? Will it become a global Hub?
Alessandro: MENA region has 2 boosting factors for CEA and vertical farming development: the extreme environmental conditions that make technology necessary for food security and a great availability of renewable energy that can help reducing carbon footprint of facilities. MENA region is going to be surely one of the main center of development for vertical farming industry.
What can other regions learn from the development of the vertical farming industry in the MENA region? In terms of innovation eco-system and potentially mentality?
Alessandro: Some countries are used to deal with food as it is a commodity, if we don’t improve our food production model it will be less and less true in the future. MENA regions are used to deal with agriculture in a different way so, from a legislative perspective there is a higher sensibility on promoting new production models. For example – Europe needs to release some constraint and speed up the creation of specific frameworks about soilless vertical cultivation to help the industry growing, developing and having a positive impact on food security.
What challenges can you foresee for the indoor vertical farming sector specifically in the MENA region and on a global scale?
Alessandro: I think that energy cost and availability make an enormous difference in designing vertical farming ecosystems. Depending on energy market conditions it is needed to plan different development models. Strict relationships and agreements with energy utility companies are always critical for the success of a vertical farming project, I believe this is even more true for MENA regions. At a global level I think that if we reduce the energy consumption and increase the protein content of what we grow we can really make a difference.
We will need to change our habits introducing new ingredients like microalgae, but I believe that if we start mixing new and old ingredients in a smart way, we can slightly move from one model to another without great stresses, producing great benefits for the environment and for food security on a global scale.
To join Alessandro’s presentation on ‘Tackling the Energy Challenge: Producing More Whilst Using Less’ and to meet him and his team at GVF 2022 – Visit Conrad in DUBAI on July 27th and 28th.