If you buy lettuce in the winter in Denmark, it will probably be imported from Spain or Italy—or even Kenya. But a new vertical indoor farm on the outskirts of Copenhagen will soon begin producing 1,000 metric tons of greens a year locally. The Danish company running the farm, in partnership with a Taiwanese tech provider, says that similar farms covering an area the size of 20 soccer fields could fully supply the country’s entire demand for greens.
The farm is the work of YesHealth Group, a Taiwanese company that has spent the last decade developing vertical farming technology. The company developed the largest vertical farm in Taiwan, which is profitable (unlike several North American vertical farm startups), and the largest vertical farm in China (the Chinese farm supplies food to employees rather than selling it). In Denmark, it’s partnering with Nordic Harvest, a startup that aims to make food production more sustainable through technology.
Like most other indoor farms, the facility uses hydroponics, technology that grows food with little water, and doesn’t require the use of pesticides. (It also avoids the risk of disease outbreaks like salmonella that can happen on outdoor farms.) The company makes its own LED lights, which have become far more efficient over the last decade; electricity is one of the largest costs of this type of agriculture.
The new farm, covering more than 75,000 square feet, will run fully on wind power, slashing the carbon footprint of production. In theory, because the greens will be much fresher when they reach grocery stores and consumers, the system can also help reduce food waste. The majority of the farm, with 14 shelves of greens stacked up toward the ceiling, is automated, so labor costs are low.
When the greens are sold in Danish supermarkets beginning in January, they’ll be priced similarly to organic greens, though Stella Tsai, the general manager of YesHealth Group, says that it will soon be competitive with conventional produce. “In this kind of growing method, you can control every cost,” she says. “You won’t be influenced by the climate, so you can [grow on] a new schedule.” YesHealth Group plans to expand to other locations in Europe, and will also move into Singapore, the Philippines, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa next year.