"Lower production prices by textile-based vertical farming and fogponics"

“We moved away from conventional hydroponics to fogponics, which reduces heat stress in roots and improves root zone surface area, which both results in higher metabolism and lower maintenance requirements,” says Martin Peter, co-founder and CEO of Lite+Fog, a German agtech company that builds aeroponic-type vertical farming systems. Now that they have recently ventured into the cannabis industry, the company is expecting many cannabis growers to be interested in their system.

Prototype for CBD cannabis in Switzerland

Lite+Fog has designed vertical growing towers which are hollow, completely made of textiles and fed by a fine fog filled with nutrients. While the plants’ aboveground biomass grows on the outer side of the column, the roots grow in this hollow interior and are nourished by this nutrient-rich mist. In this environment, root growth is quite strong and the production of fine root hairs is favored, which improves nutrient uptake and plant health – and thus harvest efficiency.

“As steel or plastic constructions are not sustainable and make up sometimes more than 70% of building costs in vertical farming, replacing them with textiles makes our farms much more environmentally friendly and cheaper to build.”

Designing from the ground up
As Martin explains, vertical farming often struggles with the management of microclimates created by densely layered production systems, whether these be vertical towers or horizontal shelving systems. However, horizontal multi-tiered systems are particularly vulnerable as the natural vertical movement of air is impeded by racking systems. To mitigate this, Lite+Fog designed its modules in a vertical manner, with round planters which also allowed the company to double its plantable area.

“I feel that today’s vertical farms were built on existing products for greenhouses or other industries. One was applied to the other as a quick solution to a problem, but not necessarily the solution you’d come up with when starting from zero,” says Martin. Instead, Lite+Fog builds its product around optimal solutions to ensure that its system is as efficient, productive and sustainable as possible. “We use lightweight materials and much leaner and quicker process management controls. Because the tower is made out of textiles, it is not only more sustainable but also more affordable. Moreover, you can easily move the fabric up and down, which means that we can make the tower as high we want.”

Benefits for cannabis
Once the system is ready for the cannabis industry, Martin is expecting many cannabis growers to be interested in its benefits. “We believe the plants in our system generate 20% more ingredients as well as being of improved quality. In addition to that we can likely lower the production costs dramatically compared to most conventional systems. These are very beneficial aspects for cannabis growers.” And while light rails with moving lights are known in the cannabis industry, Lite+Fog’s system actually moves the plant itself. Through the vertical growing towers’ round shape and additional rotation, the company estimates that they achieve more than 30% energy savings by maximizing light use efficiency and improving airflow. “Every beam of light not hitting a plant is wasted energy and rotation further improves on lighting efficiency,” says Martin.

The company recently installed its first prototype for CBD cannabis production in Switzerland. “We are not yet finished with the prototype and are constantly improving. As a system like this has not yet been done for industrial cannabis, there have been some challenges along the way. For example, we have had to replace and improve upon the fogging units.” Martin explains that the influence of their technology on cannabis has also not yet been studied scientifically. Therefore, the company is looking for partnerships to do cannabis trials on the possibilities of fogponics. “We want to have more statistics about the amount of fog you need, the root growth, and finding out the parameters that are different from hydroponics.”

For more information:
Lite+Fog GmbH
Martin Peter, Co-Founder and CEO

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