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EBRD and EU back innovative vertical farm in Romania

When Romanian horticulture expert Cristian Tudor started his business in 2014, he was the first in the country to grow microgreens – tiny vegetable greens with a higher nutritional value and shorter production cycle than their mature “cousins”.


Since then, Ultragreens has grown over 200 million plants and plans to grow even more by employing green, digital and modern methods of farming, with support from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the European Union (EU).


Thinking green


Back in 2018, we designed our own hydroponic microgreens system, named Microsera, now available in Romania and Bulgaria,” Tudor says. “These are mini versions of growing plots placed next to the food and vegetable aisles in supermarkets, helping stores to supply fresh produce to their customers, driving up sales and driving down transportation costs and carbon footprint.”


In 2022, the company partnered with Kaufland Romania to open the country’s first-ever vertical hydroponic farm. The farm has plants growing on seven levels within a production area of 1,250 square metres.


The choice of hydroponic vertical farming was no mere coincidence for the sustainability-minded company. This method ensures constant production throughout the year and higher yields and requires 95 per cent less water than traditional farming methods.


The EBRD and the EU have helped the company develop software that makes the company’s vertical farm run like clockwork. This solution is modular, can be adapted to any vertical facility and can be operated remotely.


The company received support under the EBRD’s Green Innovation Programme, which is funded by the Horizon2020, the EU’s research and innovation programme and the TaiwanBusiness-EBRD Technical Cooperation Fund. The Green Innovation Programme aims to help companies in the 12 EU member states that are also EBRD investee economies foster green innovation.


One year since the farm opened, the figures paint a compelling picture: 1.2 million plants were grown, while 3,000 cubic metres of water were saved compared with traditional growing. Over 34,000 kilometres of transport were avoided, cutting costs as well as 12 tonnes of CO2 emissions.


Thinking big


Ultragreens is currently preparing for a new milestone: a vertical, completely automated hydroponic farm with a growing area of more than 7,000 square metres.

Unlike a traditional warehouse-based vertical growing method, this new farm will follow a production-line logic reminiscent of well-rehearsed choreography,” says Tudor.


Once the seeds are planted, the plants will enter into a “production line” and grow as they pass through specially designed spaces, tailored to meet the unique requirements of different plants and stages of development.


Sophisticated software, developed with help of the EBRD and the EU, will ensure the smooth planning and management of the line. It will also automatically send purchase orders to the procurement division, ensuring traceability and accurate harvest forecasting.


There will be no people working in the growing area, which will reduce human error to almost zero,” Tudor says. “The result will be pesticide-free crops and clean food and we will be able to replicate this system elsewhere.”


In the face of climate change and the increasing scarcity of land and water resources, innovative entrepreneurs such as Cristian Tudor are developing solutions to address the numerous challenges our world faces today. The EBRD and its donors are strong partners in such endeavours, working together to support and promote green and sustainable innovation.