Mobile aeroponic system requires less maintenance and ensures even irrigation
Everyone is talking about sustainability and ways to reduce operational costs while – perhaps – doing more. One growing method that addresses all of this is aeroponics. At the same time, setting up a large-scale aeroponic greenhouse is a huge task. This is where the Swiss company CleanGreens Solutions comes in. “We design mobile aeroponic systems for the production of leafy greens in greenhouses and its associated application,” says Bernhard Baumgartner, Commercial Director of CleanGreens Solutions. “This puts us in a unique position in the market, as there are really only a few vendors like us in the world.”
The CleanGreens system is composed of a transport system, an entry and exit conveyor and modules. Below everything, a mobile robot sprays the roots with a nutrient mist. “This robot allows homogeneous and above all uniform irrigation throughout the greenhouse but also allows the irrigation parameters to be modified during the growth cycle. Primarily, we have eliminated the risk of nozzle clogging by design. The robot has a low number of nozzles, namely 72 for an area of up to 1,000m2, with a special shape that prevents them from clogging. Moreover, the robot can be easily extracted from the cultivation line. “It makes maintenance a lot easier, which is usually a huge problem when it comes to aeroponic systems.” Bernhard indeed underlines that none of the producers with whom he has worked has ever had a clogging.
Greenova system installed with ‘Les Crudettes’ in France in an 8,000 m2 greenhouse
Fixed systems vs mobile robot
Bernhard says they designed such a mobile robot because of the inherent problem with stationary aeroponic systems. “In a fixed aeroponic system, you have several nozzles per m². This means that if you have a 10,000 m² greenhouse, you potentially have tens of thousands of nozzles. This not only puts a strain on CAPEX, but it is also additional maintenance. Thus, a producer would pay someone to go and check and maintain the nozzles regularly. Operationally speaking, it’s a nightmare to do. In addition, it is very difficult to uniformly irrigate plants with a large-scale fixed system, especially since the droplet quality is very pressure-sensitive and would require a complex piping arrangement. With our system, we guarantee that the irrigation droplets remain of high quality, regardless of where they are delivered to the roots. The mobility of our robot saves growers from this burden. This is because it sprays at regular intervals. There are fewer nozzles, which has a positive impact on maintenance costs. The robot would not solve the labor problem, but it would surely save a producer from needing more. »
Support is key
CleanGreens Solutions also follows its customers closely. “We sell the equipment and install it for our client. And then, we designed a “care package” to help the grower throughout the crop, but also if he wants to increase production. We have agronomists who would be in direct contact with the producers and would make site visits throughout the first cycles of production. We created this service because we want our customers to succeed, for one simple reason: our system is ultra-modern and very high-tech. Growers who opt for this are visionaries and early adopters. We need to give them the peace of mind they need to operate with such unique technology. It’s something that depends on us, not the producer.
Exactly for ease of use, the system comes with software that allows a grower to easily operate all aspects of the operation. “The software has two main functions,” explains Bernhard. “He can do everything in the greenhouse and follows what’s going on in the crop and who’s doing that specific job. So, for example, he would know what each operator does on a daily basis, but also know that specific modules need to be harvested and others need to be washed and disinfected. One of the features of the software is indeed an alert system that notifies a producer when an action is necessary.
The utmost attention to detail that CleanGreens Solutions has put into the design of its large-scale aeroponics is delivering good business results. “We’re shifting gears right now,” he says. “We will commission two full-scale projects in Europe and the Middle East, with more coming online soon. At the same time, we are targeting different markets. In addition to Europe, the Middle East is a vast area that we wish to cover and our system fits perfectly into the food security strategy of this region. North America, of course, is also a market we want to enter. Either way, no matter where we go first, our main driver will always be to keep improving our system to reduce OPEX and improve efficiency even more.