Meeting demand for food by building a new industry
By Gus van der Feltz
Global Director City Farming, Philips Horticulture Solutions
After getting a degree in Applied Physics from Delft University and an MBA from INSEAD in France, I worked in marketing positions at ASML and Assembleon, which both make electronic equipment. So I have a thorough understanding of technology combined with business experience. Now I’m responsible for developing City Farming as part of Philips’ ventures in horticulture.
Growing plants in cities and maximizing resources
City Farming offers a new technology to grow plants like lettuce, spinach, herbs and Asian greens in a way that’s often better than current agricultural techniques. We can control very precisely the conditions in which a crop grows, like lighting, nutrients and climate. This allows us to create nutritional profiles for specific commercial, dietary or medical purposes. We can also do it in a very small footprint with minimum use of resources.
I work with a diverse team including plant scientists, researchers, system technicians, logistics experts and business developers. We’re trying to understand how to build better urban farms with the emphasis on lighting, but also integrating it with climate control into an overall city farming system. We also aim to commercialize the technology for different plants and applications.
I think city farming will supplement rather than replace traditional agricultural, particularly for crops that are more difficult to grow elsewhere. The global population is growing and people are increasingly concerned about the quality and availability of their food. City Farming enables production of tasty, high-quality vegetables close to consumers.
We work with customers who want to build city farms, and in the past year we’ve helped create two in the Netherlands. It’s wonderful that Philips has entered this uncharted territory and given us the resources to develop our proposition and show that there’s real market potential here.