A CANADIAN grower has signed a $55 million contract with an Australian vertical farming technology company in order to create an automated leafy green production facility.
Sunshine Coast based Vertical Farm Systems (VFS) provides fully automated growing systems to produce food at scale, indoors, year round, without relying on skilled labour, favourable weather, high soil fertility or high-water use.
According to the company, the vertical farming industry is worth an estimated $5 billion dollars annually in the US alone.
Ashley Thomson and John Leslie formed Vertical Farm Systems in 2009 when they first saw the opportunity to engineer a system that would allow producers to grow crops indoors year-round with no need for chemicals or pesticides and significantly lower water use.
The Vertical Farm Systems XA Series Warehouse System is the result of nine years of development and commercial testing.
The technology allows producers to grow a wide range of leafy greens and herbs indoors, 52 weeks a year and it's almost entirely automated.
Part of the selling pitch for the system is ability to produce reliable harvests with no seasonal crops, no crop losses and consistent quality.
The company also highlighted the minimal overheads required with up to a 30 per cent return on investment which "can be achieved with ideal power and building rental costs compared to 3-4pc for open field farmers".
According to VFS, the system producing 400kg per week requires one worker for only six hours a week and the XA Series uses 95pc less water than open field farming.
The XA Series systems can be installed in any geographic location that offers suitable power and water supplies.
VFS says over a year, a small XA Series system with 500m of building floor area can produce the same harvest as 3.2 hectares (8 acres) of traditional farming.
VFS managing director Ashley Thomson said it may seem like the company had come out of nowhere, but the team had been working on this technology for almost a decade.
"Now we're able to take it to market we can see the massive global potential. In addition to our Canadian customer, we have sold units to growers in New Zealand, the UK and we're currently negotiating multi-million dollar deals in the UAE and the USA," he said.
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