Extreme Farming, Astrofarmers and Space Tomatoes.
This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)
More and more we talk about precision agriculture and more and more intensive farming projects are being developed that use sophisticated control systems. This system controls various parameters vital to the success of cultivation. Monitoring so carefully is done in order to stimulate better yields per hectare or in order to industrialize processes that until yesterday were largely left to the natural succession of things.
Among the many experiences that can be find, many fruits and vegetables are growing in carefully monitored and designed greenhouses to manage the temperatures and ensure more crops throughout the year. Intensive greenhouse farming is gaining significant results by demonstrating that if well-managed it can produce significant quantities with better earning for the farmer.
But today I would like to bring to your attention a case where we can talk about Extreme Precision Agriculture, this summer I visited the production site of Ferrari Farm. Here what they did and why that can well be defined “extreme” and some more.
Ferrari Farm came out from the determination of two sisters, one of them a graduate in aerospace engineering. The idea of the Ferrari Farm greenhouses is not just related to the production of excellent tomatoes but it is the result of finding solutions to imagine how to grow vegetables and vegetables in space within a spaceship.
That is why their greenhouses are built sealed and isolated from the outside environment as would be those of a spaceship on the day that we built one. Almost the same ones from which James Kirk is eating @USS Enterprise during his space travels.
The Ferrari greenhouse is a closed hydroponic ecosystem where light, moisture, nutrients and water are carefully monitored and metered. In the tomato cultivation, they have identified 21 different microclimates, computers run light, nourishment, CO2, and others stuff allowing plants and fruits to grow their best by time and sizes .
This “extreme” approach, besides having made the two cultivating sisters the first two Astrofarmers of Italy (and their tomatoes the first Space Tomatoes), has undoubted advantages.
The resulting product is always of a high quality, with excellent physical and organoleptic characteristics, predictable in advance. We can position that production among the so-called premium in the highest part of the market. The tomato is also completely absenting from metals unlike those grown on open ground or in “traditional” hydroponic plants, and is thus assimilable and edible even by anyone, also from who developed specific intolerances.
As a result of its isolation, the product comes to the end of its growth cycle immune from pests or illnesses and succeed in producing a fruit from virtually all flowers, performance is also here “extreme”.
The growth of a Ferrari tomato plant develops in about 12 months, the period in which the plant grows about 18 meters and during which only the top three meters of the fruit is useful to the fruit, the rest is wrapped itself around the base of the culture tanks.
Water consumption is only 125 liters of water per week for each greenhouse with about 210 plants.
Nutrients are also carefully recycled and waste is minimised.This extremely low consumption indicates that the water and the rest of the raw materials used are being used with great care and assumes low-cost scenarios, even more is the proof that agriculture can be done with quality and success cultures in extremely hostile areas of the planet. Both for the total isolation from parasites and for the neutrality of the internal conditions compared to the outside world. A good example would be areas close to consumption such as the big urban areas or the big Africa to feed, with good peace of zero km activist too.
In addition, the profit and loss balance, once successfully generated the business model, is very stable and allows for reasonable profit planning. That qualify this type of culture as very reliable, both for end customers or industrial distributors, being not subject to criticality due to natural elements. Very friendly for logistics, storage and any further food processing.
Precision agriculture, and in particular hydroponic greenhouses and rapidly evolving together with vertical farms, are a possible response to our future needs.
No one should underestimate the briefly description of Ferrari Farm, because behind these achievements there are years of research and countless problems faced and resolved that have become solutions. Probably there is enough IP to deposit sufficient to fund 4 or 5 new startups.
Because the example and the great research done in the Ferrari Farms should not be wasted, we would need visionary investments, by governments rather than private ones. Investment that may be able to look with a bit of vision a few years ahead, the time to do so is now, hope somebody will notice it.
Ferrari Farm can be visited by prior email agreement or call with Giorgia or Valentina, and it is to date the best and most sophisticated example of precision farming I have met. Thanks to the two AstroFarmers for their kind hospitality and for having being so brave to make all that.
Ferrari Farm is not producing only Space Tomatoes and more info may be found @ www.ferrarifarm.com
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