Blagoveshchensk plant “Teplichny” has launched a new line for growing greenery. Agronomists have already harvested the first vitamin crop and sent it for sale to the city’s retail chains. The vertical greenhouse did not disappoint — both lettuce, arugula, and kale, aka curly cabbage, were born. The second salad line will allow the agro-combine to grow 54 tons of herbs and herbs per year. What is the uniqueness of the new production for the region and whether the new technology will affect prices for buyers — Amurskaya Pravda found out.
Bid on Height
A new salad farm at an agricultural enterprise somewhat resembles an archive or a library. Racks up to the ceiling, streams of white light pouring from above, a slight hum of automation serving the room. Only instead of books and folders on the shelves there are cassettes with seedlings or grown plants. And the air smells not of old paper, but of freshness, like after a rain.
A separate building was built from scratch for salad production. Unlike the previous horizontal greenhouses, it looks quite compact: it occupies only 260 square meters. But if you recalculate the area of all vertical racks, you will get a huge space — 1,460 “squares”. This size of production allows you to grow 54 tons of salads and greens per year.
“We tried to grow eggplants and peppers in greenhouses, and they grew very tasty, but they turned out to be less in demand among Amur residents than cucumbers, tomatoes and greens.”
For the Amur region, a vertical farm is an innovation. There are no similar ones in the region, and even on such a scale. For the Far East, this production is also one of the largest.
The employees of Teplichny have been working fruitfully on the vertical salad farm for the second month. The experiment showed that green crops grow well under artificial lighting in a completely closed room.
— Due to the vertical location, special lighting and irrigation systems that allow us to save electricity, we will be able to produce more crops, — comments Andrey Lozovsky, General Director of Teplichny LLC. — And the most important thing is that with this type of production, we do not depend on the environment. On the contrary, we can build the weather and the conditions that we need ourselves. Previously, in the summer, we could not grow salads and greens in translucent greenhouses — in the heat, due to the large amount of sun, green crops burned down. And this technology allows you to harvest all year round, which means that it gives you the opportunity to always be on the market with high-quality products.
Harvest without sun
The vertical salad farm of the so-called fourth generation uses a hydroponics system. This is a way of growing plants without soil — on artificial media. When they get their nutrition from a special solution coming to their roots.
64,8 million rubles — the total cost of a vertical salad farm
The rack for seedlings is mounted from 14 shelves and has a height of more than 5 meters (workers serve the upper shelves on a special lift-trolley). A irrigation system has been formed over its entire surface. At the very top there are tanks for the nutrient solution (it is kneaded in a special room), from there it flows down through the gutters and fills the pallets in which cassettes with seedlings are installed.
The farm is managed using an IT platform installed on a laptop. It allows both in winter and in summer to set the microclimate necessary for plant growth in the room. The equipment that the new line is equipped with is of both Russian and foreign production. We managed to buy imported goods even before the sanctions were imposed.
— In the conditions of sanctions, when it is impossible to directly purchase the necessary spare part, you have to use cunning and ingenuity to replace it with something. Or use parallel import. A similar situation has developed with the purchase of Dutch seeds, but nothing, we are getting out of it, ” admits Andrey Viktorovich.
Manual labor in “spacesuits”
Despite the fact that in the work of the salad farm, the emphasis is on the latest technologies, there is still no manual labor in production. The vertical greenhouse is serviced by six specialists who work on a rolling schedule from 8 to 17 hours. Before entering the production shop, each of them puts on an individual “spacesuit” — puts on a protective uniform, shoes, mask and gloves. Otherwise it is impossible — the space is closed.
The plant has launched production in a vertical greenhouse of the fourth generation.
— Such rules are dictated by security measures. If you bring a spore of some fungus to the farm, then it will be much more difficult to fight the disease here than in open greenhouses, where ultraviolet light penetrates, having disinfecting properties. I will note that the suits of the workers are cotton, they breathe,” explains the CEO of the agro—enterprise.
The cultivation of green crops begins with the preparation of the soil: peat with perlite is soaked, then hammered into special cups that are installed in cassettes. In the prepared soil, agronomists sow seeds. If salad crops, then put 1-2 seeds, if seed crops — 20-30 seeds.
The signs that supposedly “Friday is an empty day” are not believed here and green crops are sown every day. They say there are no unfavorable days for planting: each seed has its own energy, so it will germinate.
“The New Year is ahead — work is in full swing”
— After moistening, the crops are transferred to the germination chamber, which has its own individual microclimate. The humidity in it is 90-95%, the temperature is from 20 to 23 degrees, — says the agronomist of the vertical salad farm Marina Bondar. — It takes from two to four days for the seeds to awaken. As soon as the seed has woken up, we transfer it to the seedling zone. There the cassettes are on special pallets, which are watered by hydroponics. As the leaf grows, we determine when the seedling needs to move to the main growth zone. We have seven shelves in it, each with one or two cultures. Plant nutrition is selected individually for each species.
“With this type of production, we do not depend on the environment. We can build the weather and the conditions that we need ourselves. Earlier in the summer, we could not grow salads and greens in translucent greenhouses — in the heat, due to the large amount of sun, green crops burned down. This technology allows you to harvest all year round, which means that it gives you the opportunity to always be on the market with high—quality products,” says Andrey Lozovsky.
On all the shelves with plants, you can see a leaf-tag. This is how agronomists mark what kind of crop grows, when it is sown, when it was exposed and when it should be harvested.
— We clearly know when and what kind of culture we will collect. We also clearly know when and what we should sow. On a certain day of the week, a certain number of products with a certain assortment are issued. All these conclusions are made from sales: what the city wants, we grow for it, plus we offer a few more novelties. We also focus on holidays. The New Year is ahead, so the work is in full swing, we are preparing a lot of products.
Despite the fact that daylight does not penetrate into the room of the vertical farm, there is a change of day and night for the cultivated plants. Daylight here lasts 16 hours, and night — 8. At night, as in nature, plants are immersed in darkness. Yes, they also need to rest in order to accumulate more useful substances.
In the main zone, salads and herbs grow from 16 to 24 days, after which they are transferred to the packing room, where they undergo pre-sale preparation. The roots of the plants are removed, they are packaged and sent for sale or to a warehouse of finished products — in a refrigerator with a temperature of 6 degrees, where they are stored for a maximum of a day.
There are already six types of greens from the salad farm on sale
The freshest greens from the new Greenhouse line can be bought today in the retail chains of Blagoveshchensk. Iceberg and frieze salads, basil, arugula, spinach and kale (curly cabbage) are already on sale. A total of 12 crops will be grown on the vertical salad farm. Customers will also see Romano lettuce, chard (a subspecies of beetroot), pak choi (cabbage stalks), satudai (oak-leaf lettuce), red sorrel, as well as mizuna (Japanese cabbage) on the shelves.
Two salad lines, a greenhouse for growing cucumbers and a greenhouse for growing tomatoes, are currently operating at the greenhouse “Teplichny”. All this is located on an area of almost 10 hectares.
In addition to its potted products, the plant offers salads and herbs for cutting. Fragrant leaves and bunches are sold in plastic packaging. The purchased greens can not be washed, as it has already been processed.
Also, the agronomists of the “Greenhouse” are collecting “baby leaf” — young tender leaves of various green crops. Young plants are removed a little earlier than their agrotechnical deadlines — until they exceed 5-10 centimeters in height. The greens are smaller in size, but have a richer taste.
— We are trying to expand the range of salads and herbs, accustom the buyer to our new products, and the line is quite large. If we take domestic plants, then the entire list of salads that we grow will be one of the largest in Russia. As for the sales markets, we focus on the markets of the Far East, but we can supply other regions as needed,” said Andrey Lozovsky.