With its indoor vertical agriculture solutions, Urban Crop Solutions, based in Beveren-Leie, is contributing towards more sustainable cities and communities. At the start of this year, Urban Crop Solutions won the EU Tech Chamber's SDG Award for its contribution towards SDG 11. With its solutions, Urban Crop Solutions wants to bring food production into consumers' homes in the form of indoor vertical growing systems. Urban Crop Solutions is also focusing heavily on research into innovative methods for waste reduction and recycling in order to make agriculture more circular.
In summary, Urban Crop Solutions intends to grow more sustainable crops that are rich in nutrients while reducing the input, and to make these more accessible and affordable, throughout the year, even in challenging climates.
Maarten Vandecruys, Founder & CTO of Urban Crop Solutions explains: “We're growing plants in fully controlled and enclosed environments that enable us to avoid any use of chemicals or pesticides. Food is also grown close to the place where it is consumed, reducing the need for chilled transport and therefore lowering CO2 emissions. What's more, the food retains more of its nutritional value because it does not need to be chilled for as long."
Urban Crop Solutions wants to look at the bigger picture, however. Vandecruys continues: "It's not just about wanting to reduce the distance the food travels to the consumer. We're also trying to produce using fewer resources (water and soil) while reducing waste. For example, all growing methods have been fully scientifically fine-tuned and we know exactly how much fertiliser and water is needed. This water is also used again in a circular system and we recycle on site. This means that water consumption in our indoor agriculture systems is as much as 95% lower than in traditional agriculture, which is a definite advantage in regions suffering from drought."
At present, Urban Crop Solutions is working as a partner in a research consortium on integrating an anaerobic digester into an indoor farm, which converts food waste into electricity, CO2, nutrients, heat, and biogas; in short, all the input that an indoor farm needs. "Basically, we're producing food from food waste – which results in a circular agriculture system – and this is crucial if we are going successfully achieve urban agriculture," explains Vandecruys.
Urban Crop Solutions operates globally; it has recently, for example, begun a collaboration with an important player in fruit and vegetable growing in Saudi Arabia. Growing fruit and vegetables is not easy in Saudi Arabia due to the heat and dry conditions. For climatological and strategic reasons, the Middle East region offers considerable potential for indoor vertical agriculture.
"As a result of increasing urbanisation and the threat to food security due to the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, the government of Saudi Arabia recently championed vertical indoor agriculture as an answer to food shortages," notes Vandecruys. "The Saudi Arabian government has spent as much as twenty-seven million dollars in a short time on developing and installing vertical agriculture technologies. Open-air agriculture is not an option for them, and that's why they're opting for a fully controlled environment. The project – which in its first stage consists of various ModuleX growth modules, an airlock, a chilling unit, an operational room and a distribution room – will need to be up and running by the end of this year.
About Urban Crop Solutions
Urban Crop Solutions was established in 2014 and now employs 21 people. In addition to its headquarters in Waregem, where all of its research is conducted, it has offices in Miami in the USA.
Urban Crop Solutions is an end-to-end provider of solutions for indoor vertical farming. In addition to patented systems for growing plants in conditions without natural light, the company is also supporting its clients with research into plant biology in order to achieve the optimum end-product for food, pharmaceuticals, and industry. Its client base is international, with clients from Tahiti to Canada and companies ranging from IKEA to Bayer.
Urban Crop Solutions supports clients from idea to through to research, installation, and continuous support during operations. Based on the desired end-product, the team of scientists in the Research Center identifies the desired growing parameters that enable the client in turn to grow the crop homogeneously throughout the year.