Patent of the Month September


Vertical Farming with OrbiLoop

For plants to produce good crop yields, parameters such as light, nutrients and moisture are of major significance. However, these conditions are highly weather dependent in conventional farming, which poses serious problems as global warming and soil sealing accelerate. “Indoor farming" is hence the buzz word of the future. The Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME has developed a sustainable solution for this kind of farming: The plants are cultivated fully automatically in a vertical, closed system. In 2018, the brilliant invention was filed for patent under the innocuous-seeming title "Device for promoting the growth of plants". The corresponding publication WO2018220011A1 is thus our patent of the harvest month September!

Simon Vogel developed the technology together with Institute Director Prof. Stefan Schillberg at the Aachen campus of Fraunhofer IME.

In fact, it is a box in which the plants are placed on a rotating transport belt. Due to the constant rotation, the plants are constantly forced to realign themselves in the earth's gravitational field. This so-called "orbitropal" effect stimulates the production of plant hormones that boost cell growth. The roots are not in soil, but are nourished by a subtle nutrient mist. Simultaneously, an optimised light supply promotes the growth of the leaf component. The controlled conditions enable resource-efficient plant growth completely independent of seasonal variations. All vegetation factors are digitally monitored and optimally adjusted through efficient data management.

The plant production system is licensed and marketed by the Maschinen- & Metallbau Vonhoegen GmbH & Co. KG, based in Würselen. The name OrbiLoop is actually inspired by the rotating cultivation technology. A prototype is currently on display at the Technology Centre at Europaplatz.

While artificial plant cultivation may seem strange at first glance, this method offers many advantages. The optimised growth conditions deliver high yields without the need for fertilisers or pesticides. Moreover, the technology is extremely water- and space-efficient. As a result, fresh plants can be grown at any time and in any place; all that is needed is an earthed socket, a fresh water supply and an internet connection!
In the future, it is quite feasible that supermarkets or large canteens will directly produce vegetable and herb plants on site. This would also save transport and storing costs.

Worldwide patent application and a remarkable patent family with 16 publications so far show, that the inventors have high expectations for their idea. We are curious to see when we will be able to harvest our own lettuce in the supermarket!

The Patent & Standards Centre wishes your ideas a mind-blowing success!

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Patentschrift: WO2018220011A1