Vinnova has granted funding for our project DC-Farming together with LTU. The total project is 4,8 MSEK for the partners RISE SICS North, LTU and The Food Print Lab.
The goal of the project is to find technical, economic and social synergies between greenhouse (GH) and data centers (DC) that can contribute to make vegetable farming competitive and sustainable in Nordic countries and the sub-questions are:
1) How to technically utilize the potential of DC waste heat to supply GH in an energy and cost-efficient way by integrating the GH with the DC building and by selecting suitable methods for lighting, heat storage, de-humidification etc.
2) What is the socio-economic potential of integrating GHs with DCs, for all parties involved?
3) How to plan and steer sustainable farming strategies in connection to urban-rural contexts in order to boost social and economic activities that can increase the number of GH vegetable farms and farmers in Sweden.
Since awareness of food security has risen in recent years in Sweden, the government has established a strategy1 for achieving this. In the Nordic countries there are major challenges for the agriculture industry in terms of significant climate constraints, but there is also potential in terms of energy sources that can make farming more the food security goals. The farms, especially in the north, have a strong tradition for pastures targeting the meat and dairy industry2. This sustainable and help move towardstype of agriculture is highly adapted to arctic and subarctic climate (with large variations in sunlight and heat over the year) compared with vegetable cultivation.
Vegetable farms in Sweden have high production costs due to the need for added energy and tends to grow mono crops to optimize profits driven by demand from the major retailers. However, this is a vulnerable business model as it reduces the adaptability of farms to market changes. Many regions are therefore dependent on national and international imports to provide vegetables. The Swedish import of fruits and vegetables is currently 1,7 Mton and increasing, dwarfing the export of 0,2 Mton3.
To adapt vegetable cultivation businesses to the climate of the Nordic countries, re- location of farms closer to waste heat sources of expanding industry such as data centers (DC) should be considered. Often these industries are condensed in urban or peri-urban areas where services and necessities are more accessible than in the countryside, which might encourage new farmers to appear.