In 2019, by combining expertise in technology and vertical farming, Swegreen launched an in-store ‘plant paradise’ to help even the smallest retailers and restaurants get fresh, great-tasting and nutritional vegetables onto consumers’ plates with minimum inputs and the smallest possible climate footprint. “Grodan is the best solution for us in our precisely controlled circular environment,” says Sepehr Mousavi, Chief Innovation Officer at Swegreen.
It is not unusual for fruit and vegetable production to be a high-tech activity nowadays, with industrial-scale, semi-automated greenhouses and precision growing becoming increasingly common. But in line with the company motto, Swegreen is focusing on the other end of the spectrum to help shape ‘the future of farming’. “We were keen to combine our knowledge and experience of both vertical farming with advanced digital technology, data analytics and world-leading techniques to grow fresh produce as close to the end consumer as possible,” says Sepehr Mousavi, Swegreen’s Chief Innovation Officer and Co-founder, who has been involved in vertical farming since the early 2010s. “We have developed small-scale indoor farming units of various sizes and production capacities so that customers can grow their own leafy greens and herbs – from seed to harvest – in their own retail stores, restaurants or hotels. Many supermarkets have in-store bakeries for bake-off products, so why not have your own in-store farm too?” he adds.
High-tech controlled environment
“We have so far devoted 70,000 R&D hours to developing a high-tech controlled environment that allows us to mimic the most optimal natural conditions indoors. With digital monitoring and artificial intelligence-based steering using our own growing recipes, our cloud platform constantly controls over a hundred different parameters, including lighting, temperature, humidity, irrigation, nutrient management and CO2 levels. We can even create different conditions on different floors of the farm, enabling multiple types of crops to be grown in the same unit.”
Needless to say, every square metre of floorspace counts, whether in retail or hospitality outlets, but Swegreen has succeeded in developing modular in-store farms to suit even the smallest of customers. “Besides our unit with a 40-60m2 footprint, we recently added smaller options. Our Saga model can be installed on as little as 12, 9 or even 7m2 and still looks fantastic,” states Sepehr. The vertical farm units comprise several different storeys to facilitate the production of different crops, ranging from lettuces to herbs and spices. Thanks to the subscription set-up, customers don’t purchase the farm itself. Instead, they pay for the harvest capacity, which is usually between 2,000 to 15,000 plants a month, depending on the size of the unit.