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Sun-free yet summer sweet strawberries build the case for a vertical farm 


High productivity is important for a vertical farm – but getting the right quality of a crop is equally or even more important. With this in mind, it should not come as a surprise that our first experiments to grow strawberries at the GrowWise Center focused on achieving a sweet tasting strawberry. 

Besides measuring productivity, we also measured the Brix values (sugar content) for two different strawberry varieties. It took us just over two months to grow strawberry plants from seeds. After that, we were able to pick large amounts of beautiful strawberries for about three months.

 

Normally produce from our facilities is used in the restaurants at the High Tech Campus. These strawberries, however, were so immensely popular that they never left our premises; they were eaten by our team as fast as they could ripen. 

 

 

strawberries

 

Both varieties of strawberries which were selected with ABZ Seeds showed good Brix values. The big surprise, however, came when we found out that one specific light recipe enabled us to achieve 20% higher Brix values on average compared to the other light recipes. This underlines the powerful impact that customized light recipes can have on growing crops and in providing a competitive advantage for a vertical farm or city farm enterprise.
 

Follow-up experiments are aimed at seeing if we can push the boundaries further. Current productivity levels with strawberry plants grown from seed are almost at a viable business case level. We expect that when we start off with mature runners we can improve productivity while maintaining a high quality fruit. In the future, this should enable us to produce summer sweet strawberries all year round, without daylight! Locally grown, fresh strawberries for Christmas? This reality is not that far away!
 

Did you know by the way that the taste of other crops like tomatoes can also be influenced by the right light recipe. Read more about the tasty tomato crops grown by APS in the UK. As Phil Pearson tells us, ‘The phenomenal tomatoes grown in the winter taste like mid-summer ones.’

Thijs van den Bergh is a Plant Specialist at Philips Lighting Horticulture LED Solutions. He is located at Philips Lighting‘s GrowWise Research Center. His work focuses on setting up and carrying out trials aimed at developing growth recipes to efficiently grow crops with desired characteristics. He carries out research on light, cropping systems, climate and nutrients for a wide range of crops. In this series of articles, Thijs shares the latest results from growing trials carried out in a multi-layer growing environment without any daylight.