The global challenges faced in our current day farming are soil erosion, ground water depletion and pollution by the over usage of fertilizers, deforestation, over-irrigation and land degradation. Unfavourable weather conditions also influence food production and can lead to increased long-distance transport adding to a larger carbon footprint.
As an alternative solution to the above existing problem, Grönovation AB has developed an innovative automated indoor vertical farming system capable of adapting to different environmental conditions for plant growth using hydroponics. Grönovation is a spin off from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), Uppsala, Sweden.
Back in 2015, CEO Sarosh Ramachandra’s research group at SLU was studying molecular plant-microbe interactions using hydroponic technologies. The research showed a potential of using hydroponics and artificial light in growing nutrient rich plants in a controlled environment for commercial setting. This gave birth to Grönovation AB in 2018 with the first pre-seed funding from SLU Holding AB, a company that supports researchers from SLU in commercialising their research, and further supported by VCs and angel investors.
First vertical farm in a ‘Bomb Shelter’
In 2018, the journey from lab to commercial production started in a ‘Bomb Shelter’ pilot plant in Uppsala. While there was freezing temperature outside, Grönovation was successful in growing nutritious salads and herbs with minimal environmental impact inside and sold the salds and herbs to local customers.
During this initial journey, Staffan Matzén joined the team as a co-founder and was instrumental in further upgrading the vertical farming technology. Staffan has a Master’s in Agronomy and has extensive experience in green-house technologies, 3D Modelling and manufacturing of components.
Our team also includes Rashmi Ramachandra co-founder, with a PhD in Medical Biochemistry from Uppsala University. She brings to the team a good knowledge and experience on phyto-biomolecules and its effects on key diseases like diabetes and cancer from her research, including clinical drug development.
With a strong team, Grönovation has taken indoor vertical farming system to an advanced level where automation combined with AI is used to develop a more modern, state of the art precision growing agri-tech company with LEAN production method. As a result, the company has submitted three patent applications related to the automations connected to vertical farming.
With our growing technology there is five times higher yields/m2 compared to green houses. Currently, Grönovation is selling salads and herbs to three prominent food distributors in Uppsala and Stockholm region.
Grönovation with its strong research aptitude, has developed a ‘secret sauce’ which is a combination of nutrient delivery, light spectrum and controlled environment for growing different nutrient enriched plants as well as plants with high bioactive ingredients. Grönovation’s R&D portfolio is focusing on protein rich crops as raw material for meat analogues used in food industry. We are also growing medicinal plants to extract active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) for pharmaceutical & premium bioactive extracts to nutraceutical and cosmetic industries.
As the next growing step, Grönovation is planning to build giga vertical farms together with food distributors in the Nordics and internationally, to grow fresh nutritious greens and protein rich crops. Our vertical farms will be symbiotic and holistic systems combining recycling of residual or waste products (CO2, waste heat, biomass and water). In addition, we are looking into licensing or franchising our technology to potential large-scale growers.
In 2021, Grönovation was selected in the IVA100 list of Research2Business projects in circular economy by the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences (IVA). As a feather in the cap, being one among 60 company’s accepted for the EIT-FAN Programme from hundreds of contestants is an honourable recognition for Grönovation for their innovation in the field of agri-tech. Expert mentoring sessions from Business Tampere and others offered in the programme is helpful for our development in different business-related aspects. The programme provides a good platform, to collaborate with corporates such as Paulig and BASF among others as well as in expanding business, networking & building partnerships. The EIT FAN programme has opened up Grönovation’s discussions with experts at VTT and University of Helsinki on exploring novel or alternative plant protein sources and functional foods. In a nutshell, EIT-FAN programme has been a gateway in Grönovations journey from pot to plate!
Written by Rashmi Ramachandra.
To learn more about Grönovation and the EIT FAN Helsinki program, visit Grönovation – Nutritious herbs and greens for a sustainable world (gronovation.se) and https://www.eitfan.eu/helsinki.