It starts ten years ago with a shipping container, in which LED lights are mounted on racks. The idea was that leaf vegetables could be Leafy vegetables can thus be grown in layers all year round, or so the idea goes. The LED technology was not yet very efficient, but entrepreneurs Peter Christiaens, René van Haeff and Michel la Crois see the potential. With various partners such as Van Dijck Groenteproducties, a member grower with the Fossa Eugenia growers' association, they are experimenting extensively with crops such as spinach and lettuce. crops such as spinach and lettuce varieties. In this way, Light4Food can provide the much-needed knowledge of growing in an indoor environment. Light, climate and and air are kept in optimum balance in a computer-controlled environment. maintained. The first indoor growing facility is born.
Mobile Climate Room for Rent
This innovation is generating a lot of interest, especially from companies in the seed breeding industry. However, the initial investment for a fixed setup is high and that still holds companies back. The entrepreneurs are coming up with a solution entrepreneurs came up with a solution for this as well: they developed a Mobile Climate Chamber rent for plant science research into the possibilities of indoor growing.
In the years that follow, renting soon turns into buying. Especially seed breeders at home and abroad want such a Mobile Climate Room for their own botanical research. The most special delivery was made Ciris in Norway, where the Mobile Climate Chamber is destined for the International Space Station (ISS). Growing vegetables on Mars: that too is possible.
First green fingers
Light4Food may be a technical company, but it really starts really with the green thumb. That is the reason for their success, says Van Haeff. "Many companies start from engineering. But you have nothing with technology if you don't know what the plant needs. That's why We have botanists in our company who, together with our client, look at the specific characteristics and the specific characteristics and needs of a particular crop. With that information, you can adjust lighting, climate and nutrition and increase efficiency."
"you have nothing in technology if you don't know what the plant needs"
Research and engineer yourself
Light4Food will therefore continue to invest in its own plant research and research, in addition to building plants. Van Haeff explains why: "Every crop requires different light spectra, climate requirements, air movement and nutrition. For each crop we look for the right botanical growth correct botanical growth recipe and in which installation this growth recipe is the technical growth recipe. By doing this ourselves research, we can develop better products." In this way, the plant specialists are also researching the ideal growth recipe for high wire crops, such as cucumbers and tomatoes.
Christiaens explains: "A tomato plant is of course much larger than a lettuce plant and produces more moisture. That requires, for example, a different different light distribution and air movement. All our findings lead to a new kind of plant."
Extreme climate as opportunity
Benefits of the new solution lie primarily in the efficiency. Van Haeff: "The breeding cycle can be shortened considerably the breeding cycle can be shortened considerably, the cultivation quality is more stable due to optimal conditions and cultivation is very sustainable thanks to recirculation and the regeneration of heat and water. These are important cost components for horticulture." Initially, Light4Food is serving with this breeding companies in the Netherlands. Later, countries with extreme climate conditions will come into the picture for production cultivation, such as Russia and Saudi Arabia. The reputation of the Netherlands ensures that the market The Netherlands' reputation ensures that the market will automatically find them.
Indoor growing not everywhere and always
But the entrepreneurial partners realize that indoor growing is not always the best solution. Van Haeff: "For more generic crops such as potatoes and grain, outdoor cultivation is and will remain an excellent way, certainly in Western Europe. That is what we are always looking at with our partners and clients: when does it become interesting and how do we get there? we get there?" They also see more efficient production and less waste as themes that apply to all agri-food.
Christaens: "Therein lies the solution to the world food problem. So much is still wasted in all the phases from farm to fork, there is still a world to win. A world to win."
Free thinking and implementation
Talking with Van Haeff and Christiaens, it soon becomes clear: innovation is in these men's blood. You can't learn to innovate, they both believe. Christiaens: "You have to be a kind of hippy, dare to think freely. dare to think freely. If you only see bears on the road, you will get nowhere." At the same time, they do believe that you can drive innovation within your company. drive innovation within your company. Van Haeff: "We have a weekly meeting with all employees where we employees, where we look back on projects and discuss what we can still improve. In this way, we create a culture of continuous development."
And just innovating isn't possible either, they now know. "If you only want to come up with new ideas and leave the implementation to the other side, you can't build a healthy company. The trick is to find a good balance.
The entrepreneurs have three tips for innovation-minded companies in the agri-food sector.
- Combine young talent with old pros in the business. "We employ a number of pensionados who have decades of experience in, for example, lighting and cultivation, air treatment or mechanical engineering. That is very valuable if you want to be able to test a new idea in and turn it into a real product. product. The younger generation is super-fast with computer technology.
- Seek suitable partners and give each other a chance. "Don't try to do everything yourself. "Don't try to do everything yourself, together you get much further. The The starting point must be that you grant each other something and share knowledge freely. You'll find out pretty quickly when that's possible. Bringing and taking must be in balance.
- Innovate from a demand or a need. Innovate without a demand makes no sense. "Innovating without a demand is pointless, then it becomes a gimmick. Immerse yourself in the market, talk to people and find out the issues that