Vertical Farming System “OrbiPlant®”

"Fresh, healthy greens everywhere for everyone"

© Fraunhofer IME | Christian Ahrens

Producing plant food continuously, pesticide-free and sustainably indoors? With "OrbiPlant®", the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME has developed an innovative, automated vertical plant cultivation system that makes exactly that possible efficiently and cost-effectively on a large scale.

Whether it's lettuce, herbs or root vegetables, people want their daily ration of healthy, plant-based food. Especially in cities, there is a high demand for constant availability and equally high demands on product quality: fresh, untreated, sustainable and resource-saving. To ensure this, so-called "indoor farming" has established itself as a promising method for local food production.

OrbiPlant® also follows this method. Here, agricultural products are not classically grown in fields but increasingly vertically in controlled, closed systems in order to make the best possible use of the usually limited floor space in urban environments. The OrbiPlant® system is based on proprietary vertical farming technology and sets new standards for efficient and cost-effective indoor crop production.  

The automated pilot plant at the Aachen site has a 24 m² growing area where both food and medicinal plants are cultivated. In contrast to previous indoor farming methods, OrbiPlant® offers several process technology innovations. For example, an integrated, wave-shaped conveyor belt system is used, which firmly fixes the respective plants and continuously realigns them in the space. This increases the production of certain plant hormones, resulting in faster leaf growth and higher biomass (orbitropal effect). In addition, the system features an aeroponic irrigation system in which the plant roots are suspended in the air where they are supplied with targeted water and nutrients via a spray mist. Optimal lighting of the plants is ensured throughout the cultivation period by modular LED technology, and additional CO2 fertilization increases quality and harvest quantity.