AVF member, YASAI AG, is a vertical farming start up and ETH spin-off. The company was founded in 2020 by Mark E. Zahran, Stefano Augstburger and Philipp Bosshard in Zurich, Switzerland. Starting out focusing mainly on growing herbs, they intend to branch out into leafy greens and berries at a later date. They want to bring agriculture to cities with vertical cultivation!
In January 2022, YASAI launched its first product in 80 Coop shops in North-Western Switzerland!
“Rich green, delicate leaves and strong aroma – fresh plants from the region are particularly fine. And there’s a new way of growing them: vertical farming. What is it all about and how does it work…” – Coop Fooby Magazine by Coop, May 2022
YASAI builds and manages highly-automated vertical farms based on a circular economy to transform food systems, providing technology which is independent of local circumstances so it can be used worldwide for sustainable, future-orientated precision agriculture.
They were recently featured on the Swiss current affairs programme, 10 vor 10:
KICK-OFF OF INNOSUISSE RESEARCH PROJECT TO OPTIMIZE VERTICAL FARMING METHODS
In February 2022, YASAI AG has started to collaborate with fenaco, Agroscope and the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) as project lead in an Innosuisse research project. Specialists of all partnering institutes work on improving the sustainability, quantity, quality, and profitability of YASAI’s vertical farming operations. The 3-year project will be supported with an investment of close to 1 Mio. Swiss Francs sourced from industrial partners and Innosuisse.
Contributing to the Smart Cities of Tomorrow
With the Innosuisse project, YASAI aims to demonstrate the feasibility of sustainable vertical farming, integrated into the smart cities of tomorrow. Reducing costs and anchoring sustainability in their production model are key targets. Research results should affect the quality and affordability of YASAI’s products.
LOFT – Local Food for the Future Project
Climate change, population growth, and loss of arable land threaten the resilience of global and local food systems. Recent events have further exacerbated pressures on agricultural value chains, leading to a global rise in food prices. YASAI is on a mission to democratize access to local, high quality food produced sustainably with its soilless vertical farming system. Therefore, the following fields of research will be performed to secure future local food production:
Sustainability: The Ecotechnologies and Energy Systems Research Unit, ZHAW focuses on circular sustainable solutions in the fields of resource management, energy, and ecosystems, by closing water and nutrient cycles.
“Our team will focus on reducing the environmental footprint of YASAI by investigation of substrate quality, and selection of light and fertilizer profiles. The impact of these sustainability aspects will be evaluated using the lifecycle assessment (LCA) method”. – Project Leader, Dr. Zala Schmautz.
Quality: Agroscope, the Swiss Institute for Agricultural Research will focus on the improvements of yield and quality, as well as a comparative study of different crop cultivation systems, led by Agroscope executive member Dr. Christoph Carlen.
Packaging solutions: The Food Packaging Research Group, ILGI of the ZHAW aims to develop sustainable and innovative packaging technologies. The team around Prof. Dr. Selçuk Yildirim will put emphasis on selecting sustainable packaging materials, processes, and designs without compromising the quality of the products.
Profitability: In cooperation with fenaco and the Institute of Natural Resource Sciences of the ZHAW, YASAI will work on improving its farm’s profitability to create a business opportunity for farmers.
“The key to profitability lies in scalability and automatization of the processes. We currently produce relatively small volumes and selected products, but aim at increasing these step by step”, says Daniel Schwab, project leader vertical farming at fenaco.
fenaco is a farming cooperative society based on a century-old concept. It is owned by 174 LANDIs and their approximately 43,000 members, including almost 23,000 active Swiss farmers. As a marketing partner for agricultural products, fenaco ensures that high-quality Swiss foodstuffs (fruit, vegetables, potatoes, cereals, meat, and beverages) reach customers. As a supplier, fenaco also offers a wide range of products and services to ensure sustainable, efficient, and market-oriented agriculture. Among the best-known fenaco brands is the beverage manufacturer RAMSEIER Suisse, the meat processor Ernst Sutter, the retailers Volg and LANDI, the fertilizer retailer LANDOR, the feed manufacturer UFA and the energy provider AGROLA. Headquartered in Bern, the fenaco cooperative employs over 11,000 people and achieved net sales of 7 billion Swiss Francs in 2020.