Smart Solutions

Planty – Advanced Hydroponic Production

Growing of plants and vegetables in a highly controlled soilless indoor environment with automated irrigation and lighting according to precise needs.

Implemented inPsematismenos

Country : Cyprus

What’s the solution?

The solution involves the indoor growing of microgreens in a greenhouse using a combination of the latest technologies and hydroponic techniques - Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) together with the ‘expanding nursery’ technique - to control every aspect of the growing environment in order to use the fewest possible resources in terms of water, energy and fertilisers.

Nutrient film technique (NFT) is a specific method of hydroponic growing (without soil or similar rooting medium), in which the plant roots are placed in a shallow stream of re-calculating solution that contains all the elements required for maximum productivity. In the NFT system, there are 2 main components: the grow tray (or channel) and the reservoir that contains water and nutrients.

Expanding nursery technique requires a grow medium, grow trays and precise irrigation systems.  The grow tray is placed at an angle (supported by a rack or on a bench) to let the water flow down towards the nutrient return pipe. The excess nutrient solution will flow out of this pipe and move into another channel or tube, where it is recirculated through the system again. The roots of the plants hang down to the bottom of the channel where they come into contact with the shallow film of the nutrient solution and absorb the nutrients from them. The thin film of the nutrient solution allows the plants to be watered but not entirely soaked. This thinness also allows the upper part of the roots to remain dry and have access to oxygen in the air.

An automated irrigation system makes sure that the plants do not get thirsty and have all the nutrients they require to thrive whilst recycling the water provided. At the same time, the system uses light sensors and LEDs to provide the plants with artificial light only when natural sunlight is insufficient.

Implementation of this solution requires construction of a greenhouse along with all the necessary technological equipment to manage the irrigation system and production cycle. This includes a reservoir to contain the nutrient solution, a nutrient pump, tubes to distribute water from the nutrient pump to the NFT growing tubes, a channel for the plants to grow in, net pots to contain plants and growing media to start seedlings in and a return system (tubing, channel) to guide the used nutrient solution back to the reservoir.

The solution also requires construction of storage and packaging facilities, ready to supply the market with premium products.

This solution uses these techniques to grow high quality micro leaves/microgreens, herbs and leafy vegetables. Microgreens are tiny vegetables, no more than 8 to 14 days old, having just developed their first leaves. They are very tender but have both intense and delicate flavour and they taste, not surprisingly, like a smaller version of what they will be when they grow up.

What makes it smart?

Nature Technology

Planty uses a combination of the latest technologies available to achieve maximum freshness, taste and nutrition. Because products grow indoors, Planty can precisely control every aspect in the growing environment, resulting in consistent great quality and shorter growing cycle.

Quality and Quantity

Food production needs to be increased, and it needs to be done sustainably. At Planty, they grow the highest quality vegetables and microleaves, while minimising the impact on environment.

Nature Eternal Sunshine

Planty takes advantage of the Mediterranean sun energy, then LED lights to provide the crops with the ideal light recipe. The factory facilities secure harvest through the year, so there is no seasonality or restrictions by cloudy days.

Close To Home

The establishment is placed next to the clients and the markets, reducing the food miles and keeping a smaller carbon footprint.

No Waste

An automated irrigation systems makes sure that Planty’s plants don’t get thirsty and have all the nutrients they require to thrive. The best part is that Planty uses 85% less water than traditional growing systems. Planty also uses the Hydroponic NFT technique that recycle the water provided.

Adding value to the area

New technologies and know-how are transferred to the area. New opportunities and new jobs were also generated.

How is the solution implemented?

  • Establish the Company or the Cooperation Group
  • Prepare a Business Plan and feasibility study for the Project
  • Identify the appropriate area/plots for the Project
  • Develop an engineering study
  • Finalise the feasibility study and financial analysis
  • Carry out the preparatory work for funding applications
  • Apply for and receive core funding support for the Project
  • Secure additional funding options
  • Carry out the construction works of the required infrastructure
  • Purchase and install the necessary equipment.
  • Plant the first crops.
  • Harvest the first production!

In what local context has it been applied?

Psematismenos is a small village located just a three-minute drive from the (central) south coast of the island of Cyprus, in the Larnaca District. With ancient roots dating back to the middle Bronze Age, it is known as a peaceful and charming village, which has retained much of its traditional character and original architecture, and is surrounded by blooming gardens.

The project area is an area where many greenhouses are active. The development of greenhouse units characterizes the area. The climatic conditions of the area and its location are favourable factors.

At the same time, the village was confronted by shifting trends in the market. The increasing demand for environmentally friendly and healthy leafy vegetables products and the increased demand for packaged clean products pushed to provide a project that completes the cycle.

Who was behind the implementation?

Aeroponics Mediteranean Ltd is a private company established by Loizos Tofas (Master’s Degree in Rural and Surveying Engineering and Yiannos Konstantinidis (Master’s Degree in Electrical Engineering).

What was the local journey?

  • In September 2013, Loizos Tofas and Yiannos Konstantinidis established the new company “Aeroponics Mediteranean Ltd” (Planty) motivated by the need to develop ‘green’ agricultural products with high quality nutritional value and offering the opportunity for locals to exploit new and innovative technologies.
  • In December 2013, Planty signed a cooperation agreement with experts from Israel, for Planning – Designing – Implementing an innovative agriculture project in Cyprus.
  • In March 2014, Planty started consultation with the Ministries, local authorities and farmers of the area, leading to the development of a project idea around developing a greenhouse based on the Hydroponic Nutrient Film Technique.
  • In April 2014, Planty signed an agreement with a consultant (Big4) to prepare the Business Plan and the Feasibility Study for the project.
  • In July 2014, they identified the most appropriate plot for the project through a 'multicriteria analysis’ and GIS Analysis. This identified the best location as being plots in the area of Psematismenos, Zygi and Maroni.
  • In October 2014, land surveys and topographical works took place. Results were provided for the Engineering Study (greenhouse units and packaging facilities).
  • In December 2015, preparation work followed for the funding application submission to different Measures and Schemes. Applications for funding were submitted to the:

    • Ministry of Agriculture/CAPO for the greenhouse establishment (National Rural Development Programme).
    • HORIZON 2020 for Start Ups and
    • Ministry of Commerce and Energy for the Packaging Facilities (National Rural Development Programme).

  • By November 2017, the licenses from the Department of Planning were issued and the project was also approved for funding under the National Rural Development Programme.
  • In April 2018, Planty secured its own financial contribution to the project through owners’ own funds and a loan agreement.
  • In June 2018, the project’s infrastructure development began. This involved firstly the construction of a 10,000 sqm greenhouse divided 50-50 between a nursery and Hydroponic System, including all technological equipment to manage the irrigation system and production cycle.
  • Secondly, a 850 sqm storage, packaging and other facilities were also constructed, including sowing machine, germination room, dryers, harvesting machines, packaging machines and cold rooms.
  • In November 2019, Planty produced its first products.

What have been the main outputs & results?

At Planty, they grow the highest quality vegetables and microleaves, while minimising the impact on the environment. It also achieves shorter growing cycles and facilities a secure harvest throughout the year, so there is no seasonality or restrictions due to inclement weather.

Using the nursery and the Hydroponic NFT techniques Planty and its products have:

  • Exceptionally high production yields
  • Significantly lower operating costs
  • Extremely efficient production facilities
  • Major savings in water and fertilizers. Planty uses 85% less water than traditional growing systems.
  • Longer lifecycles for equipment
  • Clean Fresh and tasty products
  • Longer shelf life

The list of products includes:

  • the freshest root ball lettuces (little gem, salanova, batavia, butterhead) and herbs (basil, chives, rocket, kale) all year round. A product which stays fresh even longer after purchase, thanks to the root ball. By watering the root ball lettuce or herb a little every day, it stays fresh for a week longer than ordinary lettuce. During this time, the products don’t lose their crunchiness and flavour.
  • Babyleaves & Micros Mixtures, for example a superfood blend that contains red micro mustard, red micro pak choi, micro sorrel red vein, green micro mizuna and salanova.
  • Microgreens-Microleaves that are tiny, tiny vegetables, no more than 8 to 14 days old, having just developed their first leaves. They include herbs like basil, kale, amaranth, wasabina, coriander, mustard and rocket.

Especially for microgreens, recent studies indicate that all types of microgreens contain a vitamin concentration 10 to 15 times their amount in mature produce. A person who consumes 15 grams of microgreens is as if he/she had eaten 200 grams of mature product. For example, if you eat 15 grams of microgreen broccoli, it’s like you ate 10 broccoli stems.

Planty is completing the cycle “from Farm to Fork”, which includes cultivation, harvesting, research, processing, packaging, warehouse storing, marketing, distribution. Traceability is a given at every step.

At this point, Planty already provides its products to the local and national HORECA market (hotels, restaurants, cafés). The establishment is placed next to the clients and the markets, reducing the food miles and keeping a smaller carbon footprint. Placed in Psematismenos area in Cyprus Planty’s products are a step away from every home!

What does it bring the village/community?

Using the facilities and production techniques, Planty can continue to produce premium products that can be sold at a high price and also to have the critical mass of products to be able to export those. At the same time:

  • New technologies and know-how are transferred to the area.
  • New opportunities and new jobs are generated.
  • The area is characterised as a “greenhouse” area. The methods and technologies used by Planty are offering the opportunity to convert traditional “greenhouse” practises to more environmentally friendly methods.
  • Young people and researchers have access to innovation, smart solutions and technologies next to them.

What’s needed

Financial resources

Main types of cost:
Financial needs:

Set up / Investment costs: 1.700.000

Ongoing costs: these vary, depending on the production and the orders. Personnel cost is around 50% of the total ongoing costs.

It involves costs such as:

- Salaries

- Raw materials, consumables

- Promotion

- Logistics

Funding received:
EAFRD, M 4.1 & 4.2 of RDP 2014-2020320,000 €Greenhouse and Packaging Facilities
National Contribution, M 4.1 & 4.2 of RDP 2014-2020280,000 €Greenhouse and Packaging Facilities
Private Funds1,200,000 €Greenhouse and Packaging Facilities

Human resources

• Production Manager, for supervising the procedures from planting to packaging. Also receiving and delivering on time the orders.

• Marketing Manager, for promoting the company and its products.

• Packaging Manager, responsible for the packaging procedure.

• Agronomist, responsible for the treatments in the greenhouse, plant protection control and plant development.

• NFT specialist, responsible in the treatments connected to the NFT system, controlling the water nutrients, temperatures etc.

• Unskilled employees > 8, depending on production

Physical resources

A greenhouse, including 50% nursery & 50% Hydroponic System

- Irrigation systems and all the technological equipment to manage the production cycle.

• Storage, Packaging and Other Facilities:

- Dryers, harvesting and packaging machines

- Cold rooms (salads, basil, NFT products)

- Harvesting machine

- Packaging material storage

- Storage and equipment facilities

- Automatic Sowing Machine

- Germination room

What to do…

  • Have a very detailed construction plan.
  • Have a market for your products.

and not to do

  • Don’t deviate from the budgeted plan.
  • Don’t underestimate the project’s budget.

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