ALMA VFarm: an Indoor Vertical Farm for growing Food, Competences and Innovation
Flytech Srl (Belluno) is an electrical engineering company specialized in the design and production of custom electronics for lighting systems in several, different contexts. In collaboration with University of Bologna, it conducted activities 1) in the definition of the optimal characteristics of light for indoor cultivation (e.g. Vertical farms) in a broad spectrum of horticultural, aromatic and medicinal species 2) as well as in the adaptation of crop management practices (irrigation, mineral nutrition and climate management) in indoor cultivation systems, with the main aim of maximizing the resource efficiency.
Co-design an experimental, demonstrative, educational pilot project. The object of the Pilot will be the creation of a new design indoor growing environment where students, professors, technicians of the University and, more in general, experts will be involved in activities of co-design, management, and education.
There is a growing interest among students of different study degrees (agricultural science, architecture, design, engineering and others) toward the implementation of indoor farming systems. The pilot will allow us to involve students in problem-based learning and practical activities toward the generation of sustainable innovation in indoor farming technologies. The pilot will allow integrating complementary and interdisciplinary competencies toward the solution of management and technical issues associated with indoor/vertical farming and the application of integrated approaches for the implementation of viable indoor farming. In addition, the project will investigate and foster sustainable food distribution within the direct selling program of the experimental station of the University of Bologna.
For the co-design of the Pilot an online survey and a student hackaton have been organised to select innovative ideas to be implemented. The online survey involved researchers, students and professors from different departments of the University of Bologna, for a total of 64 participants, who were asked about their preference for the crop species to grow and their interest in the activities to develop within the Pilot. From the survey, a broad interest has emerged for vegetable crops, aromatic and medicinal plants. Research activities, co-design activities and workshops were the activities for which participants showed the most enthusiasm. The students hackaton involved 27 students from the Master in Agricultural Science and Technologies and in International Horticultural Science who worked in groups to design innovative and sustainable solutions regarding the typology of growing systems, the crop species, the research and the dissemination activities. Solutions including aeroponics system, cultivation of vegetable crops, herbs and edible flowers were the ones most frequently envisaged and that will be implemented in the Pilot.
The Pilot, a sealed environment with artificial light only, will be composed of a section dedicated to the aeroponic cultivation and a section dedicated to the hydroponic one, for a total plant growing surface of 58 m2, able to host more of 23’000 plants. Inside the Pilot, there will be the complete control of environmental parameters such as temperature, humidity and CO2. Continuous monitoring of water, energy and nutrient use will allow the monitoring of the environmental footprint of the system.
In collaboration with FoodE partners:
Flytech (IT) and University of Bologna (IT), Polar Permaculture Solutions AS (NO), Institut für Landes- und Stadtentwicklungsforschung gGmbH (DE), Fachhochschule Sudwestfalen (DE), Wageningen University & Research (NL), Nolde Erwin & Partner (DE), Tasen Microgreen AS (NO) and Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ES)