North Europe Vertical Farming

There are two profound transformations currently driving innovation in the food economy of Northern Europe: climate change and carbon neutrality goals. In line with the Paris Agreement, the EU aims to become carbon neutral by 2050.

According to data from the European Environment Agency, agriculture accounted for 13 percent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across all EU-27 nations in 2018, representing just below 450 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent. The majority of GHG emissions in agriculture are methane and nitrous oxide associated with livestock, manure management and fertilizer applications.

Meanwhile, according to the European Commission’s statement on Common Agricultural Policy and Climate Change, agriculture is also one of the industries most vulnerable to climate change. Several threats to food security include changing rainfall patterns, rising temperatures, variability in seasons and extreme weather events.

Food miles are another source of GHG emissions, and for nations that rely heavily on the importation of fresh, leafy vegetables throughout most of the year, the current supply chain model is expensive and inefficient. These nations’ food security depends upon farming conditions in the source region, along with just-in-time logistics.

Photo by Stein Egil Liland from Pexels

Controlled-Environment Agriculture

Whereas, in the northernmost reaches of Europe, cities like Copenhagen experience just 1,780 hours of sunlight per year on average, some of Europe’s southernmost cities like Madrid experience 2,769 hours. This makes outdoor agriculture much more challenging in Northern Europe and necessitates the import of food.

In Denmark, organic products are imported all-year-round. According to Statistics Denmark, the country imported DKK480 million worth of organic products in 2019, the majority of which came from elsewhere in Europe.

Controlled-environment agriculture offers a feasible solution for countries in Northern Europe to produce leafy vegetables all-year round. For example, our partner Nordic Harvest operates a commercial indoor vertical farm just 29 kilometers outside of Copenhagen in Denmark. Powered by wind, it supplies the local region with leafy vegetables from a carbon neutral source. Read more about the Nordic Harvest vertical farm in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Prospects for Commercialized Vertical Farming

Not only can indoor vertical farming reduce carbon emissions; it can also improve supply chain stability. Across Europe in 2020, the average price of lettuces varied from EUR101 per 100 kilograms in January to EUR27 per 100 kilograms in June, according to European Commission data. By farming leafy vegetables indoors, all-year-round, we can eliminate this seasonal price fluctuation.

Northern Europe is ripe for vertical farming. Countries like Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania all offer feasible conditions. There is great demand among consumers in these countries who are willing to pay a premium price for quality, leafy vegetables that taste great, contain zero pesticides and promise a significant reduction in carbon footprint.

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