Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke)

This interview details Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke), a research organization based in Finland. The interview is with Saila Karhu, Research Professor at Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke).

Source: Luke

What is the origin story of Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke)?

Luke was established on 1 January 2015 as a result of the merger of several well-established institutes operating under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Finland. Thus, even though a modern research organization, has its roots going back more than a hundred years. 

Today, 1300 people work at Luke, and 70% of activities is in research, and Luke also has some statutory duties. Research is done in agriculture, forestry and game and fishery, and we work both in scientific and more custom-orientated projects, nationally and internationally. Luke has annually more than 700 research projects in progress. The Horticulture Technologies group, in which we work, belongs to the Production Systems Unit and is only a small part of the institute.

Source: Luke

What are some of the biggest research topics for Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) in the future? 

The Horticulture Technologies group of Luke focuses on developing sustainable, innovative and profitable production systems for nature-respectful Northern horticulture.

For developing greenhouse and vertical farming, our activities are towards solutions to increase resource efficiency, reduce the environmental footprint, and increase automation of production. Our strong experience is in optimization and modeling of lighting, climate management, and nutrient and water use, and this work still keeps us busy. We also work for diversification of greenhouse products, to launch and establish new plant species in production. In addition, we cooperate with several companies for the development of growing media, to reduce the use of peat in greenhouse production.

Our group has several patents for greenhouse or indoor cultivation solutions. The latest patent is for a vertical farming installation, in which it is possible to grow cucumbers and other high greenhouse crops. We have got excellent results in being able to give even light conditions to cucumber vines growing in horizontal positions. This innovation is forwards automated indoor cultivation, to reduce human work. The growing system enables, not only vertical production but also the integration of automation and robotics for stem moving, leaf removal and harvesting.

Source: Luke

What are some trends you are seeing in the indoor farming market on the research side?

High operational costs related to electricity use associated with lighting is one of the key questions related to profitability. Hence, one of our most important research topics at present is related to electricity prices and its fluctuations. How to supply light according to electricity price and keep the plants happy and productive at the same time.

The price of electricity can be very different at different times of a day. We want to find the limits to the flexibility of plants to take advantage of light according to the rhythm of electricity prices.

Source: Luke

What are your thoughts in CO2 usage in indoor farms?

There are some interesting opportunities here that are related to how CO2 is sourced. Traditionally in Finland greenhouse growers buy a tank of CO2 and supply it from there, and its importance in year-round production is well known. The source could be a by-product of industrial activities. The CO2 could also be sourced for instance from cow barn methane, by a special technology under development, or even from the ambient air. These types of development sound really promising

How can people connect with you or learn more about Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke)?

Website: https://www.luke.fi

Phone: +358 (0)295 326 214

E-mail: saila.karhu@luke.fi

Source: Luke

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