STEELfab790 has designed and developed a system configured for closed environment production. The GiGrow machine is a rotating production system developed for indoor cultivation without sunlight. Plants are arranged inside a cylindrical structure that rotates around a lighted axis. Fertigation is performed at the base of the plants, directly in the growing medium, via a gravity-propelled injection system located above the machine.
The project consisted of providing technological support to R&D to commercialize and perfect GiGrow’s rotating production system. A number of factors involved in crop management were evaluated: fertilization, irrigation, lighting, substrates in different formats or made of different materials, crop density, sowing date, etc.
Expected yields were determined through experimental trials. Different production methods (field, greenhouse, terracing) were then compared and various projects were assessed for their economic feasibility. Multiple crops were also developed through this project: basil, chive, parsley, coriander, stevia, chamomile, mint, tomato, Boston lettuce, leaf lettuce, arugula and mesclun.
The results demonstrate that:
- Plants produced in the GiGrow system are of good quality with regards to colour, taste, turgidity, etc. This high-quality production can be continued throughout the year.
- The amount of biomass produced annually per unit of surface in the GiGrow system is much greater than that produced in greenhouses or even in other closed environment systems. The system’s circular shape makes full use of the production space. The machine can produce as much in 3.3 m2 of floor space as a 6.6 m2 flat surface. By stacking 2, 3 or even 4 systems, space is used more efficiently.
- The circular shape of the system also maximizes lighting, meaning less light is needed per unit of surface than in a closed environment production system on shelves, for example (saving materials and energy).
- The distribution system injects fertilizer solution into the base of the roots without the aerial part of the crops coming into contact with water at all. This significantly reduces the risk of developing diseases and molds caused by moisture.
- The concept of closed environment agriculture significantly reduces the risk of crops being invaded by insect pests. Minimizing or even eliminating phytosanitary procedures is therefore beneficial for health and environmental reasons.