The conventional approach of vertical farming, in which agricultural products are grown in shelf systems and indoor spaces, has been well known at least since the rapid growth since 2020. New, however, is the idea of using vertical farming in plant breeding. In the cultivation of young plants in particular, an enormous plant density can be achieved by keeping the distance between the shelves small. A higher plant density per unit area increases the genetic variation for plant breeding and thus offers more opportunities for breeding success. Compared to greenhouses, the use of vertical farming in plant breeding enables considerable savings and a more resource-efficient way of working per unit area. SMARTtray has ideally combined the advantages of vertical farming in its cultivation station and integrated them into the patented workflow. This has paved the way for exponential plant breeding.

Exponential plant breeding: precise control and individual adaptation

One of the main applications of exponential plant breeding is the creation of optimal cultivation conditions for the plants. In the traditional cultivation of young plants in greenhouses, not all relevant parameters and conditions can be precisely controlled. Temperature variation, humidity and light intensity can strongly influence the growth and development of plants. In an appropriately equipped exponential breeding farm, these conditions can be precisely controlled to create optimal growth conditions. You can also design your own recipes for each crop type, which can then be used independently of each other on a farm.

The SMARTtray cultivation station meets precisely these requirements for a well-equipped vertical farm. Sensors continuously record important environmental parameters such as temperature, humidity, light intensity, light composition and CO2 content. The collected data is transferred to a central control system to which the staff has permanent access.

The control system analyzes the data and adjusts the environmental conditions in real time to ensure the optimum cultivation conditions for the plants.. The system can adjust the temperature and humidity, provide the right light spectrum and light intensity and optimize the CO2 concentration. This precise control enables plant breeders to grow plants under ideal conditions and thus achieve faster and higher quality plant breeding.

More plants, less space: the advantages of exponential plant breeding

In addition, exponential plant breeding enables efficient use of space. As the plants are cultivated in vertical levels, they require less space compared to traditional horizontal cultivation. This enables breeders to grow a larger number of plants in a limited space, allowing them to achieve higher genetic variability, study more plants and increase their selection gain. This in turn speeds up the breeding process and enables faster identification and selection of desired traits at a young stage of development. The SMARTtray cultivation station enables plant breeders to achieve the highest plant density currently available for seedlings worldwide. The smallest unit available, measuring 4.5 x 3.5 x 4.5 m (L x W x H), contains 15 shelves incl. the LED lighting in the station. For each shelf, a so-called “drawer”, 122 of the 96 SMARTtrays can be cultivated. More than 168,000 plants are cultivated in the station at the same time. A quantity that would not be possible with a single greenhouse in conventional greenhouse cultivation.

“Hygienic plant cultivation: How vertical farming stops pests and pathogens

Another advantage of exponential plant breeding is the control of pests and diseases. The system is completely locked and cannot be accessed by staff. In addition, there is no soil or other sensitive substrates in the station. The closed and controlled cultivation means that pests and pathogens can be effectively fought. An ionizer keeps the atmosphere in the cultivation station at an ideal level. The water used for irrigation is purified and UV treated before it is sprayed over the trays. The strict hygiene standards can also be controlled via the system dashboard. A real-time value for volatile organic compounds (V.O.C.) is permanently displayed here, which can be seen as an indicator of the hygiene of the system.

Finally, the “cost” factor is an absolutely decisive argument. A SMARTtray cultivation station can be set up for a very small investment compared to a greenhouse. There are also significant effects in the area of energy costs. The intelligent irrigation system reduces water consumption by 95% compared to the greenhouse.

Overall, vertical farming offers immense advantages in plant breeding. The precise control of environmental conditions, the efficient use of space and the possible high hygiene standards contribute to accelerated and improved breeding. SMARTtray uses this technology to offer innovative solutions for plant breeding.

The combination of the miniaturized trays, advanced sensors and a powerful control system enables breeders to make their work more efficient and effective. With SMARTtray®’s exponential breeding, we can make significant progress in plant breeding and accelerate the development of new varieties that meet the challenges of modern agriculture.