Meet Our Members: Kroptek – In Conversation with Salim Halabi, CEO

Kroptek are historically a lighting company specialising in CEA technology. They collaborate extremely closely with growers, and they are known for their excellent customer service and grower-centric approach. The company has evolved from this standpoint of generating tailored solutions for their wide range of projects, and now they are far more than just a lighting company. They have recently also secured an Innovate UK grant and work with a variety of companies and research centres. Since they began in 2019, they have served more than 120 clients in 20 countries.

We are in the midst of a new farming revolution, and we want Kroptek to empower growers to grow high quality fresh food locally, sustainably, and profitably.

Kroptek has now expanded into 3 areas of business: Horticulture Lighting, CEA Solutions which includes R&D and commercial projects, and the Kroptek Network, a network of sustainable farms that operate under the Kroptek banner.

We are always happy to collaborate. That’s our approach and our core philosophy. We are not rigid with our technology, and we prefer to start with what’s best for the grower and work our way from there.

Kroptek is based in the UK but the company has an international team operating globally. The team consists of highly experienced, commercially-minded people with the objective of supporting CEA businesses to scale up.

We do it a bit differently – we invested in our own factory unlike many others who are outsourcing. This means we have really strong product development capabilities and we can customise solutions very quickly and cost-effectively. We believe growers have different needs and we need to listen to them to become better.

The first project Kroptek undertook as part of the ‘CEA Solutions’ area of their business was converting shipping containers into strawberry farms. While it was initially quite experimental, they teamed up with Berry Gardens – the UK’s leading berry and stone fruit production group with more than 30% of the UK market:

Together we learned a lot with Berry Gardens, we kept on making incremental changes and today some of the sweetest strawberries in the UK are grown in our container farms.

Kroptek has since then expanded considerably and now have expertise with leafy greens, microgreens, aromatic herbs, vine crops and mushrooms with plans to explore more crops going forwards.

They also won their first grant from Innovate UK under their ‘CEA Solutions’ umbrella. This is for a research project investigating lighting efficiency in greenhouses in collaboration with the University of Nottingham.

The next stage of Kroptek’s strategy was launched in late 2020 with the goal of entering the food production and distribution market. The concept of the Kroptek Network was born: rather than build farms from scratch, the strategy is to expand laterally by partnering with growers to scale up operations. Synergies will be created between members as they will have access to the group’s technology, resources, and horticulture know-how.

In 2021, Kroptek launched two pilot projects as part of the Kroptek Network. The first came to fruition when Sunden Farms, a New Brunswick based lighting client that has grown close to the Kroptek team approached them and asked for support with the scale-up of their operation. Sunden Farms operates in a region of Canada that imports 95% of all its fresh produce from 5,000 miles away, reaching supermarket shelves 10 days after harvest with most of the pricing going towards transportation and refrigeration costs. Alongside a third partner, food production automation and IoT experts Area 52, the three parties decided to partner and build what will be the largest indoor farm in Atlantic Canada, delivering high-quality and freshly harvested local produce all year round.

Their second pilot project is LA Boite A Champignons, a mushroom growing facility just outside Paris using waste coffee grounds collected from corporate offices and hotels; it is fully owned and operated by Kroptek. The team developed a proprietary recipe which allows for a more intense flavour and superior texture. La Boite a Champignons evolved from offering grow-at-home mushrooms kits to selling fresh produce to several high-end restaurants, hotels such as the George V Four Seasons in Paris, as well as supermarkets including Carrefour and SuperU.

We are growing LA Boite A Champignons from something that was artisanal into an international and commercial operation. Mushrooms are one of the most exciting foods right now and we want to grow delicious mushrooms sustainably.

Kroptek also launched a collaboration program with Upcycle, the French leaders in localized composting who are also Kroptek shareholders. Together they created the “Kropcycle” banner – a joint venture with the purpose of working with the public and private sectors on food waste recycling projects internationally.

It is known that 40% of all food produced is wasted, accounting for 10% of global greenhouse emissions while almost all of it goes into landfills and incinerators. Together with Upcycle we can make composting so effective and pervasive that closed loop agriculture can become a reality in many parts of the world.

With so many interesting projects and ideas, Kroptek are undeniably ones to watch in the Agtech space and we are excited to see what they contribute to the food supply chain revolution over the coming years!