Copenhagen is home to Europe’s largest vertical farm, Nordic Harvest, that uses renewable energy and applies robotic technology in innovative ways to recycle water, nutrients and fertilizers.
Is it possible to produce quality greens entirely independent of weather conditions and without emitting carbon? For the wind-powered vertical farm in Copenhagen this dream is already a reality.
Living systems are interlinked, for better or for worse. And it’s a given that feeding the world is one of the major causes of the climate crisis. Deforestation, decreasing water reserves, pesticides and excess nutrients damage flora and fauna. New farming approaches are needed and fortunately, promising solutions to alternative farming in the Anthropocene are starting to pop up. Nordic Harvest is part of this more sustainable transition.
The cutting-edge Danish company was founded in 2020. Acknowledging that they are nowhere near a revolution yet, they do admit to being very proud of the reception they have received so far. CEO Anders Riemann and his team can grow and harvest more than 200 times more per square meter than conventional farms, thus freeing up farmland to reforestation.
‘’We use up to 250 times less water compared to conventional agriculture. We have no emissions or spill to the environment. We can produce locally year round with a consistent high quality. Our products stay fresh longer and thus decrease food waste. We use certified wind energy and have turned the cycles for the plants using the majority of power at night where there is excess wind-energy and thus sustaining the business case for wind turbines’’. These genius solutions are all brought to fruition inside a massive warehouse where plants soar almost to the ceiling.
Inspiration comes from vision, but also from frustration. Both apply to Nordic Harvest, but especially the latter. “The food supply chain has made us stop thinking about sustainability as we increasingly demand high quality year round at lower and lower prices’’. In order to revert this trend, the Danish entrepreneurs emphasise the need to provide consumers with obvious sustainable choices, meaning ‘’producing even higher quality with similar price tags but in a sustainable way’’. Quite a challenge, but one they’ve risen to, rethinking the way we produce food using new technologies and methods. “And to think of it, it also seems a little crazy that I – a financial analyst and not a farmer – should think in these terms,” confesses company partner Jonas Rugaard, “but here we are.”
Currently, the team is working to expand their capacity from 250 tonnes a year to 1,000 tonnes of sustainably produced greens. “This should be concluded already this year. Then we have plans of opening in Sweden, Norway, Finland and one more facility in Denmark over the next couple of years,” Rugaard points out. At the same time Nordic Harvest continues to improve the technology in order to grow more than just salad greens, herbs and kale – knowing very well that just these crops alone won’t change the entire face of farming.
Being the ambitious agents of change that they are, they plan to take the project full circle, launching a long-term reforestation project through a foundation that will buy up farmland and rewild it back into forest. Where, exactly, this forest will be is still being decided. But what is clear is that the future looks promising for Nordic Harvest as they push for change and encourage people to share ideas and to think outside the box.
AtlasAction: If you’re in Denmark you can support Nordic Harvest by buying these delicious carbon neutral greens all over the country. If not, they’d love it if you’d share their story to inspire similar projects closer to home.
Oceanographer, sustainable development master student and reporter based in Barcelona. Her interests include sustainability, nature conservation, regional and international ocean governance and BCN Més-style slow journalism.
Anders Riemann, founder
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