Migros and Growcer engaged in an audacious project with a unique vision: To realize the future of farming. Six months after the initial step, we have transformed the old Wolf-Cargo Station to host Switzerland’s first vertical farms. On a area of 400sqm, we are growing a variety of green leaves and herbs, using vertical growth towers. Products are now available at your M-Parc im Dreispitz. Continue reading to learn more about this intriguing project.
The Growcer Story
Growcer was born out of a simple idea: What if we farmed inside? With over-farming, pesticides, water shortages and greenhouse gasses threatening our food-supply, health and environment, there are many reasons why farming methods need to be reinvented.
With similar movements gathering momentum in other parts of the world, Growcer was set to bring urban vertical farming to Switzerland. After initial studies showed not only that this new farming method is more ecological, and feasible than importing produce, but also more environmentally friendly and healthy, it did not take long before Migros and Growcer engaged in a partnership to augment Migros offering of their well enjoyed “Aus der Region, für die Region” brand, offering customers even more healthy and bio–certified products.
Using advanced sensors, an intelligent watering system, and the caring hand of our farmers, we at Growcer are able to grow plants in optimal conditions, reducing food waste, utilizing 90% less water than conventional farming, without requiring chemical pesticides. The result are not only products that have a longer shelf-live than conventional produce but have shown to also contain higher Vitamin-C content, than their greenhouse equivalents.
Surely, if a product is healthier, lasts longer and is more nutritious, there must be a catch, right? Perhaps it is unnatural to farm inside?
It may sound strange, but urban farming in many ways can be a lot more natural than traditional methods. Conventional farming has shown to deplete the earths natural resources, and chemical pesticides are not only starting to impact our ground and drinking water , but also threatening the bee population . In contrast, vertical farming uses its resources much more efficiently. On an area of 400 sqm, we are farming on an area-equivalent of 1500 sqm. Additionally, it significantly reduces the amount of water that is used , chemical pesticides are eliminated and the use of fertilizer is limited and controlled in a sustainable closed circuit. As a result, you can enjoy a delicious product, knowing that you are supporting the ecological and sustainable farming method of the future: vertical farming.
Is it still natural? Yes!
After our successful initiation, we want to expand our portfolio and reach. With a key focus on modularizing our farming systems, we want to enable everyone to install and run their own vertical farm and be part of this growing sustainable movement. We also want to develop our portfolio to deliver even more nutritious and delicious produce. We hope we can count on you to support us in our mission and design the future.
Got more questions? You can read through our FAQ below, contact us directly or ask us during a tasty plant tour.
Lettuce – Green
Lettuce – Red
Pak Choi Red
- Date for seeding, harvest and packaging
- Water consumption
- Energy consumption
- CO-2 emissions
St. Jakobs-Strasse 200
Frequently Asked Questions
Food production is becoming increasingly complex and difficult. Like many countries,
Switzerland is dependent on imports. Many products are transported over long distances – sometimes even by plane, resulting in high CO 2 emissions and transport related food waste. Water is becoming an increasingly important resource, as sweet water reserves are becoming more and more scarce, including in Switzerland. Additionally pesticide use is threatening the health of the environment and society. Vertical farming simplifies food production by cutting transport routes, minimizing water use and negating the need for pesticides.
Not only does vertical farming respond to the customers demand for sustainable and
regional food (food products are labeled “Aus der Region” = “From the Region”). It also allows for food to be grown in a water and space saving environment, without the use of pesticides, and independently of weather conditions. As a result of climate change the frequency of extreme weather is increasing around the globe. This includes late frost, aggressive storms (ex. hurricanes, typhoons) and long periods of drought and heat. Furthermore, the demand for fresh fruit and vegetables is increasing. As Switzerland only has a limited amount of agricultural land, space saving solutions like vertical farming are needed to meet the demand. It is one of the most innovative and modern ways of sustainable food production.
In our partnership with SBB we were able to repurpose an old train station (Smart City Lab) into a working farm and office space. Due to the proximity with the city center this allows us to integrate the farm into an urban environment.
Growcer’s patented technology consists of a network of sensors, vertical growth towers and robots. With this technology Growcer’s vertical farms are able to consume far less energy compared to conventional vertical farms. Furthermore, the farm is exclusively powered by renewable energy sources, including solar and wind energy.
Robots will never be able to replace farmers, they will however support them to facilitate production on a day-to-day basis. They will perform tasks which are either too repetitive or too dangerous for employees. The human will still remain at the core of the farm, working closely with data and robots. (N.b. In Switzerland there is a lack of agricultural personnel).
For now Migros Dreispitz will the only branch supplied by Growcer. It is planned that further branches will follow.
The current product selection currently encompasses bok choy (red), wasabi-flavoured arugula, kale, chard (red), as well as red and green lettuce. These are leafy greens which only have seasonal and limited availability in Switzerland, or which need to be imported. Herbs and several fruits can also be grown in vertical farms.
What does the future involvement of robots look like? When and how will they be implemented? What is the current situation?
Growcer-Robotics is an important component of the overall concept. The latest technology is utilized to monitor and ensure plant welfare. However, the farmer remains an integral part of the process as he is responsible for the plants care.
The products are not certified with the organic-label, as one of the major conditions of the label is that the products need to be grown in the ground, which is not the case in our vertical farm. Our product selection falls into a new category that takes into account regionality, pesticides and the demand for organic products in a growing market.
Even though it seems quite strange at first, vegetables from vertical farms have many advantages over vegetables grown with traditional cultivation methods. Research has shown that the vitamin C content of VF arugula is 50% higher compared to normally grown arugula. Additionally the presence of environmentally harmful and toxic nitrates were found to be 40% lower in the vertical farm.
The VF-products also have a longer shelf-life. A study found that optimised lighting periods in food production could lead to a 25% increase in the shelf life of the product. As a result, less products are thrown away, either by the merchant or the consumer, and the product remains fresh longer.
What about the taste? The products from the vertical farm can’t possibly taste the same as the ones from the farm?
By taking specific care of the plants and utilizing optimal lighting conditions for photosynthesis, the taste of the VF products is stronger and more intense compared to traditionally farmed alternatives. Don’t believe us? Book a tour and have a taste yourself!
Vertical farming presents itself as a natural alternative to pesticides, chemical fertilizer and water waste. Based on past experiences and new research, vertical farming can respond to individual plants allowing optimal growth and harvest. As a result, our grown produce is natural and environmentally friendly.
The beginnings of vertical farming can be traced back to the 1970s in Japan. However, the modern forms of vertical farming come from studies done by Columbia University in 1999. Since then vertical farming has been gaining traction globally as a sustainable solution to meet the increasing challenges of global warming.
Vertical farming is a relatively new idea, which is based on a pragmatic and technological approach. Similar to many new ideas, this innovation can seem quite strange at first. However the benefits for society, health and environment are not only theoretical, but can be seen and tasted on a day to day basis at our and other, similar plants all over the world.
Our aim is to make sustainable and natural products available to everyone. Therefore we are always striving to to make our products as affordable as products coming from conventional agriculture.