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Nabo Farm – Urban farm supplies local and sustainable microgreens

"With its vertical indoor agriculture, the innovative startup company Nabo Farm has become an excellent example of what future food production can look like - a future where the city's citizens can buy completely fresh, local and sustainable food."

Aamanns, Alchemist, and Harvest. These are just some of Copenhagen's top restaurants, which today receive fresh herbs from the small startup company Nabo Farm. And although we are talking about classics such as watercress, radishes and rocket, Nabo Farm's herbs are anything but traditional. Nabo Farm grows its herbs in the middle of the city - specifically on meter-long and high shelves in a disused car workshop in Copenhagen's Northwest quarter, where they have established an indoor vertical farm. Since Jens Krogshede and Sebastian Dragelykke established Nabo Farm back in 2018, the ambition has been to bring the production of food closer to the people who have to eat it and to make fresh, local and nutritious greens available to everyone - with a focus on sustainability and balance with nature .

An innovative technique

Nabo Farm grows sprouts, herbs and salads - but without soil or sun. They do this by using a hydroponic system that makes the plants grow three times as fast as normal. In short, hydroponics involves growing soilless with liquid nutrients in the water. This makes it possible to give the crops exactly the portion of nutrition they need. In addition, the use of pesticides, herbicides and GMOs is avoided, as the plants are grown in a controlled environment.
This gives Nabo Farm the opportunity to produce in a way that achieves a large yield with few resources. For example, they use around 90 percent less water than conventional cultivation of herbs. In other words, Jens and Sebastian get a very large return on their resource consumption.

Vertical farming is the future

Nabo Farm is today one of the country's largest vertical farms and taps into a growing trend - both at home and globally.
Although vertical (urban) agriculture is not really a new invention, with examples such as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the floating gardens of the Aztecs and hydroponic farms on Ascension Island during WWII, today we see a growing interest in the cultivation method. In recent years, vertical farming has popped up in several places, including in the USA and England, and a lot of investment is being made in the establishment and development of this type of food – IKEA, Google and Amazon, among others, have posted large sums of money in similar food projects.

Although it is a type of agriculture that is still in its infancy, there are many experts who predict a great future for this type of production and cultivation technology. This is because vertical farming based on hydroponics is a cheap, efficient and highly sustainable way of producing food. It can release enormous amounts of the land we have cultivated for agriculture today to nature and help to restore a much greater biodiversity. In addition, there is the local potential that lies in this form of production. Vertical urban agriculture offers the opportunity to supply big cities like Copenhagen with fresh and locally produced food that does not have a long transport footprint behind it - and this is something that is also in growing demand at a time when the climate needs all the CO2 reductions that it can get. Nabo Farm, for example, supplies their herbs and sprouts with the local bicycle couriers from ByExpressen – this gives a significantly different CO2 footprint from the transport than if the watercress has been driven from a city outside Copenhagen, perhaps all the way up through Europe, in a lorry. In other words, there are great possibilities that in the coming years we will see many more urban agriculture à la Nabo Farm.

Community and development

Today, Nabo Farm actively collaborates with both their customers and other food producers in relation to ensuring continuous development and innovation - and they are constantly experimenting to refine the quality, taste and nutrition in their microgreens.
Part of this is also that they have created a hub for sustainable food startups in their premises in the North West. They have thus built an office community together with their own production, which other food startups can become a part of. Today, the old car workshop houses, among other things, Funga Farm, which grows mushrooms, Brøl, which produces beer from i.a. leftover bread and GRIM, which sell the "ugly" vegetables no one else will negotiate. The goal of this is to create development and synergies that can help develop their and other manufacturers' products together.

Thus, Nabo Farm originally started by selling only to local restaurants, but now delivers to both businesses and private individuals with bicycle delivery. In addition, they sell their microgreens in the "AllGood" store, where they, together with fellows and neighbors, sell directly to private individuals as a modern barn door sale in front of their urban farm in the Northwest.

Nabo Farm - meet Jens and Sebastian

How did the idea come about? And how did you make the leap?
We had both worked with microgreens and vertical farming on a smaller scale separately, and were looking for a partner to go all-in on vertical farming with. Via our network we met in June 2018 and the rest is history.

The biggest challenge?
To find our place in a food system that is primarily designed according to the monoculture of large farms and a limited selection of greens.

The biggest learning?
The direct contact with the customers and our service creates just as much value as producing high quality sustainable greens.

The next step?
To find investors who can help us create more Nabo Farme in DK and the rest of the world.

Main message:
Nature is magical, remember to work with it and not against it. And then the future just tastes fantastic.

Author of the article: Anna Fenger Schefte
Editor: Julie Holm and Mads Boserup Lauritsen

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