We chat with Erez Galonska, founder and CEO of Infarm – and innovative greenhouse that will bring farming into cities. Infarm is also a finalist in the 2015 Green Alley Awards:
What inspired you to create Infarm?
I was always very passionate about being self-sufficient. I travelled to remote communities where what you grow is what you eat. During this period farming became a big part of my life. I discovered that growing food is such a powerful and natural experience – when you eat truly fresh vegetables you recognise immediately how much tastier and healthier they are.
When I came back to my flat in the city the feeling of freedom and freshness dissolved very quickly and the urban chaos took over. I was longing for a piece of land.
One night I googled: “can I farm without soil?” and the answer I got was: “hydroponics”
After spending hours in front of Youtube tutorials with Osnat (my girlfriend) and Guy (my brother), we built an hydroponic pipe system in our living room.
One month later, we had a jungle farm full of delicious greens. It was February in Berlin, cold and snowing outside, and we had fresh vegetables inside. From this first pipe garden, INFARM was born.
We wanted to share the magic of growing with everyone, and to create the tools for an urban farming revolution.
What’s different about your greenhouse?
After three years of extensive research in the world of indoor farming we developed a smart vertical farming building block that is highly efficient and modular. With this building block one can build vertical farms in restaurants, hotels, supermarkets, and even at home, growing food 365 days a year.
The plants grow Hydroponically, on a thin layer of water enriched with fertilisers and oxygen.
Custom made LED growing lights mimic different sun spectrums to enhance taste and boost nutritional value. We use micro sensors and data processing, to ensure that the plants get the best conditions to thrive. Despite its complexity, the device is easy to use, and comfortably controlled by an App, making farming possible for everyone.
Why is this important?
Our food travels 1500 km passing through 28 pairs of hands and wasting incredible amounts of energy. On top of that, 30% of the food produced is wasted before it arrives to our plate.
Agriculture has become one of the most harmful industries on our planet. It is responsible for 70% of the planet’s water use, for up to 24% of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as the degradation of soil.
We must increase production while consuming less resources and creating less environmental impact.
Growing locally and by demand eliminates waste, as well as all the need for transportation. Growing Hydroponically saves 90% water and 70% fertilizers. Growing vertically, in a controlled environment, allows us to maximize space and to farm year round.
Where, and how, are your greenhouses currently being used?
In the last two years we built custom growing systems for high profile clients like Mercedes Benz, 25h hotels, Airbnb and more.
In our headquarters in Kreuzberg we are often hosting groups for workshops and culinary events where people can learn and experience infarming.
We’re also exhibiting a vertical farming concept at the Olympus Perspective Playground at Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Through pre-installed endoscopes the visitor can be immersed into the structure of a plant and observe it grow from a tiny seed. Commonly applied on humans, this medical technology allows the invisible world of the inner plant to emerge as a large scaled live image.
We’re also launching a pilot vertical farm inside a large supermarket. It is going to be the first of its kind project in Europe and our first fully productive farm.
Realistically how much food can they produce, the vertical greenhouses look lovely, but how much difference do they really make to the amount of food we need to grow?
INFARM’s core innovation is a technology that allows far greater production efficiency than any other product in the market today. From each 1sqm growing tray we harvest 4-6 mature plants every day, 365 days a year. Now, when you stack the trays vertically you increase production dramatically. With our system we can achieve the efficiency of state of the art hydroponic greenhouse from the first 1sqm.
What next for Infarm?
We have received funding from a programme of the EU called European Pioneers to finalize our product, prepare it to mass production and go to the market beginning of 2016. We are very excited about that.
Where can we buy/find out more in UK?
Currently in the UK you can find our first product, the Microgarden, in the Science Museum Store in London. It is a small origami greenhouse for growing microgreens at home. We have developed it together with the Swedish design company Tomorrow Machine, and launched it in 2014 through a successful crowdfunding campaign.
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