This interview details Novarbo Oy, a supplier of fully automated Vertical Farming systems based in Finland. The interview is with Dr. Petri Konttinen, Technical Director, D.Sc. (Tech) of Novarbo Oy.
What is the origin story of Novarbo Oy?
Novarbo Oy, a leading player in the field of sustainable greenhouse technology and growing media, traces its roots back to 2010. Founded as a subsidiary of the esteemed Biolan Oy, a family business established in 1974, Novarbo's inception was deeply influenced by the legacy of Biolan. Biolan has been a trailblazer in Finland's circular economy, setting the stage for Novarbo's mission of environmental sustainability.
Our journey began with a strong emphasis on delivering high-quality, environmentally conscious products and solutions to meet the evolving needs of the industry. In addition to Vertical Farming solutions, we specialize in organic fertilizers and eco-friendly substrates like wood fiber and Mosswool®. Furthermore, our recently updated heat recovery system is designed to capture and reuse waste heat from indoor farms and greenhouses, cutting down on energy usage.
What are some of the biggest challenges facing Novarbo Oy in the future?
Vertical farming faces a challenge in emerging to a market where traditional greenhouse horticulture thrives and attains world record-breaking yields. This challenge is heightened by Finland's highly advanced greenhouses, making the case for vertical farming adoption a bit challenging. Especially leafy vegetables should be produced by means of vertical farming at these latitudes, as it is proven to be significantly more energy efficient.
Our wood fiber and sphagnum moss growing substrates outshine peat in terms of environmental benefits and long-term ecological impact. The transition is underway, but it won't happen overnight. One of the central challenges lies in educating both growers and consumers about the environmental advantages of Novarbo's approach, bridging the knowledge gap, and emphasizing the positive environmental impact of our solutions.
What is unique about Novarbo Oy compared to competitors?
Our unique position is defined not only by our legacy and diverse sustainable solutions but also by our role as a one-stop hub, providing a comprehensive range of eco-conscious innovations capable of reshaping the industry. We are committed to collaboration, fostering partnerships with national research institutions, and actively engaging in development projects. Our endeavor to excellence shines through in our achievement of the RHP standard for our substrates, reinforcing our dedication to delivering the highest quality.
What is the current size of your growing area?
Novarbo is a supplier of fully automated Vertical Farming systems. We have a small production unit for research and product development, where we have tested over thirty different herbs and other leafy greens so far. Since 2018 we have cultivated diverse crops with a keen emphasis on performance optimization, employing resource-efficient strategies, including automation in our research facility. We also focus on the synergies between production facilities and the surrounding infrastructure for smart energy management.
We examine through industrial-scale facilities all the way to the level of industry promotion. Our container-based solution for educational and research institutions provides a versatile platform for training and crop experimentation, representing our contribution to knowledge dissemination and innovation within the vertical farming domain.
Do you use CO2 in your operation today -- if so, how much and what do you pay for it? What are your thoughts in CO2 usage in indoor farms?
We are exploring the utilization of CO2 in our operations to enhance the growth of crops in a controlled indoor environment without wasting it. While specific details on the quantity and costs of CO2 usage are not available at this moment, we are dedicated to integrating this resource in a responsible and cost-effective manner by utilizing industrial side streams as an example.
Energy is a big topic in indoor farming right now. How much do you pay for electricity (kWh)? Is it mainly from the grid or renewables?
Our energy consumption and its sources are integral aspects of our sustainability initiatives thus we only buy renewable energy from the grid. We are committed to optimizing our energy usage for efficient and environmentally responsible operations throughout the business group.
How can people connect with you or learn more about Novarbo Oy?
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