CleanGreens Solutions is gearing up to bring their mobile irrigation robot to new markets
Having grown up on a farm, Bernhard Baumgartner, Commercial Director at aeroponic growing system manufacturer CleanGreens Solutions, grew up surrounded by plants. Now he’s helping colleagues across the globe – from Europe to the Middle East – grow a feast of leafy greens thanks to the company’s unique Greenova system, which uses robotic aeroponic equipment to reduce water usage and bypass pesticides.
Hello. Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m Bernhard, Commercial Director of CleanGreens Solutions. I grew up on a farm in France so I’ve been surrounded by plants for as long as I can remember. After studying business, I worked in the renewable energy sector before moving to consulting in business development roles. I joined CleanGreens Solutions last year when the company started to scale up their development internationally.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
The correct answer is my alarm, but I imagine you’re looking for a more interesting answer! Above all, I’m driven by working with visionary people and companies, and seeing our joint projects progress. We work with pioneering clients who are changing the way we produce food.
Tell us more about how your system is changing food production?
Our top priority is sustainability. At CleanGreens we have developed a soil-free, mobile aeroponic solution for the production of lettuce, salad crops and herbs in industrial greenhouses. At the heart of our system is a smart irrigation robot, which travels beneath the supporting structure that houses the crop modules, spraying the roots from below with a nutrient solution.
What are the key benefits of this system?
Our system, called Greenova, allows clients to produce leafy greens while using very little resources in terms of water, fertilisers and pesticides, regardless of location. It enables everyone to buy locally produced leafy greens and greatly reduces food miles. Our technology multiplies lettuce yield by a factor of 30 while reducing water consumption by 25 compared to traditional agriculture.
What does your typical work day look like?
We work on so many different projects that there’s no such thing as a typical day – which is a good thing. Still, every day often includes discussions with clients, following up on existing projects and chatting about Greenova with prospective clients. Lately we’ve been in conversation with governments from various countries about launching Greenova in their markets, which is very exciting.
What key milestones have you hit so far?
Firstly, there’s the large scale projects we’re delivering right now. We are installing our system in a 6,000m2 greenhouse in Kuwait and at a 7,000m2 one in France as well. Then there’s the fact that our clients can produce so many varieties of leafy vegetables much more cheaply by growing in their own locale, therefore avoiding import costs and transport emissions. Making that possible took a great deal of sweat and brain power from our agronomy and technical teams.
What exciting projects are you working on at the moment?
We just finished renovating our R&D centre at Agropôle in Molondin so we now have a state-of-the-art showroom to exhibit what we can do both on the technical and agronomic side. Now that is complete we can focus on other R&D topics like fully automating our system. And more good news is in the pipeline, so watch this space!
Tell us a bit about how you collaborate and support others in the ecosystem.
One of the keys for success is visibility: the more people know about new food production systems like ours, the more likely they will be widely adopted in future. So we engage a lot with schools, farmers, agricultural organisations and other political institutions to raise awareness.
What support could the SFNV community offer to further your work?.
We don’t yet have a solution for the plant roots so they end up as biodegradable waste, but we’d love to find someone willing to upcycle them to reduce our waste even further. If anyone likes the sound of researching the beneficial properties of the roots of our leafy greens, we would be happy to assist. The cosmetics industry could be a good fit, but we’re open to ideas!
Tell us something we didn’t know about your company.
The key factor that sets our aeroponic system apart is the way it reduces the risk of plant disease. This means that we’re able to grow varieties that nobody else is able to grow – 100+ varieties of leafy greens from pak choi to kale and 100+ varieties of aromatic and medicinal herbs like stevia, coriander and lemongrass.
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