Tomato+: A cutting edge automated vertical farming system
Check out an exclusive interview with Daniele Rossi, the CEO of Tomato+, a company that specializes in cutting-edge, fully automated vertical farming systems.
Q: What is the HortoProfessional?
Horto Professional is an industrial system that makes it possible to automatically cultivate up to 24,000 pods in a single container. Every greenhouse contains up to 30 independently irrigated cultivation tanks, for a total cultivated area of over 67 m2. It is a horticulture system that automatically cultivates high-quality sprouts, herbs, and vegetables throughout the year.
It is totally autonomous, incredibly user-friendly, and requires no specialized employees to operate. Inside the structure, an ideal microclimate is formed that is conducive to plant growth, recreates the natural cycle of day and night, delivers the proper amount of water and nutrients, and maintains perfect humidity and temperature levels. We have several dimensions available, 5 m, 8 m, or 11 meters.
We control every parameter in six-second intervals. No type of herbicides, pesticides, or chemical fungicides is needed, eliminating the environmental impact of plant protection products. The pods are made of biodegradable and compostable materials. They contain a natural substrate on which the seeds rest, which is high quality, GMO-free and free from added chemicals, insecticides, or pesticides. They are packaged in controlled environments and maintain their freshness and germinability for 12 months. After the vegetables have been picked, the pods can be thrown into the organic waste together with the roots to become a natural fertilizer.
What kind of produce do you grow?
It's possible to grow everything because we control the parameters every 6 seconds, but in general, we grow lettuce, basil, rocket, and herbs, we can also manage to grow cannabis or mushrooms. It's possible to grow everything.
What was your idea when you started the company?
The idea was to simulate an espresso machine in the house. Now we grow plants in vertical farms outside the city, but after that, we cut the plant, put it in the fridge, transport it, and freeze it in the supermarket and homes, this is not sustainable for the plants. The idea was to enable the customer to use this in the house. That was the idea behind the birth of the Horto2. Thereafter we created the HortoProfessional which is a bigger version of the Horto2 and is aimed for industrial use.
The HortoProfessional can be placed wherever the customer wants, it only needs an electrical connection and a hydraulic connection. In addition, with the installation of solar panels or with a green energy power supply, the system will achieve zero impact production.
Which countries do you sell to?
We have customers in Italy, Austria, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, France and in the north of Europe. We would also like to open markets in the Emirates.
Are there any interesting upcoming developments in the company that you are looking forward to?
In a few months, we will have a new LED system with six frequencies. Now the standard is three frequencies, we have four operational frequencies at the moment. The use of these types of frequencies provides a complete lighting spectrum, to recreate the lighting conditions suitable for any crop or stage of growth.
The cultivation LEDs are heated to over 70 degrees. This temperature is a problem with vertical farm crops because the heat can damage the leaves or roots, so the Tomato+ LEDs are liquid cooled and can, therefore, be installed closer to the plants, optimizing the space, without stressing the plants and standardizing the climate within the system. And we are the only company that does this. This allows us to save 50 percent of the energy. In the future, our product range will also head in the direction of superfoods.
Tomato+ is examining the possibilities of enhancing its crops with additional vitamins and minerals through nutrition and climate management systems, owing to its collaboration with the Italian National Research Council.
Can you also list all the parameters or variables that you control in the system?
Humidity, temperature, the frequencies of LEDs, the temperature of LEDs, the nutrient solution, the airflow, and carbon dioxide.
Is there anything you are doing to make this business more sustainable?
We are trying to use green energy; we use water from the humidity of the air to grow plants.
HortoProfessional is one of the cultivation systems on the market with the least environmental impact due to its revolutionary technology.
The HortoProfessional hydroponic system reduces water usage by up to 90 percent compared to conventional cultivation methods, making it feasible to cultivate even in locations where water is scarce and contributing to the development of more sustainable agriculture. By cultivating plants in a sterile and regulated environment, no herbicides, pesticides, or chemical fungicides are required, saving almost 100 percent of costs and removing the environmental impact of plant protection agents, thus producing even healthier foods. Finally, the pods are compostable.
Which countries or regions would you like to expand your business to?
North America and China.
What makes this system so unique?
This system is fully automated, our customer can be a chef or a private customer, it doesn’t have to be a farmer or a technician because the system is very simple to use for everyone. We also have remote assistance to help the customer use the software.