Les Crudettes imagine the salad of the future thanks to aeroponics

Les Crudettes imagine the salad of the future thanks to aeroponics

In Châteauneuf-sur-Loire (Loire), the future of lettuce and aromatic herbs is played out in an experimental greenhouse. Since 2013, agronomists and the R&D department have been working on innovative and sustainable production in aeroponics: this is the Cap Vert des Crudettes project, one of the leaders in the food industry, a subsidiary of the LSDH group (Saint-Denis-de-l’Hotel Dairy Farm), pioneer green salad bags, mixed salads and raw vegetables ready to eat all year round.

Estelle Butelo

Aeroponics is an above-ground production system in which the roots are sprayed with a nutrient solution identical to that present in the soil. Here is the production of aromatic herbs. Photo: Les Crudettes

Producing French all year round, offering ultra-fresh and healthy products, protected from the vagaries of the weather, in a dry place to limit disease, without any chemical treatment, 90% less water and limiting the carbon footprint, that’s the environmentally friendly bet of Les Crudettes, a company specializing in packaged salads and other raw vegetables ready to eat all year round.

For this, neither the field nor the land, but a 3000 m2 greenhouse in aeroponics. “ A production system consisting of spraying lettuce roots and aromatic herbs with a nutrient solution identical to that naturally present in the soil », explains Armel Collon, Director of Purchasing and Supply Chain at La Laiterie de Saint Denis de l’Hôtel. Roots immersed in darkness outdoors like these young lettuce, oak leaf, batavia and aromatic herb plants developing in 25 m of line culture: “In these models, the mobile robot automatically sprays the plant, collecting only a few drops. The unused sprayed water goes into a closed loop, i.e. 90% water saving compared to an identical crop in the ground where the plant only uses a tiny part, not forgetting the flushing at the plant. »

Move salad production

This greenhouse, in operation since the end of 2019, with a capacity of 13,000 salads and flavors, leaves nothing to chance and checks all development factors. In a nearby laboratory, devoid of natural light, various tests are carried out on the quality of food, the size of the sprayed droplets, or even the lights, the prism of which varies from light pink to fuchsia: “Red is involved in leaf development, while blue affects leaf structure. » Further in the last part is a tunnel 60 meters long and 12 meters wide, where lettuce completes its development before ripening before harvest.
A €4 million pilot project that will serve as a springboard for the creation in 2022 of a unique 7,000 m2 aromatic herb greenhouse in Europe at the Laiterie site in St. Louis. Denis de l’Hotel. “The idea is not to do something for the producers. But to develop a technology that cannot be implemented on agricultural land, and show that it is possible, and then offer it to them. This is part of the agriculture of tomorrow, in addition to conventional production. Full production is about 300 tons per hectare per year. Here it is 950 tons. »

An experimental greenhouse in Châteauneuf-sur-Loire can produce 13,000 lettuces and herbs in a fully controlled area, from young plant to finished product. Photo: Les Crudettes

Moreover, this problem is environmental for the company Les Crudettes, which buys salads and aromatic herbs from 300 gardeners, including 200 Frenchmen. “This will allow the relocation of year-round production, which today comes from Spain or southern Italy, to the winter campaign. But also to avoid more and more climatic dangers: destructive storms, too much rain…” Another advantage is the absence of foreign bodies or an increase in shelf life from 2 to 4 days by reducing the time between harvest and processing. “Ultimately, for the Crudettes, it must be completely autonomous in its production, concludes Armel Collonand why not duplicate these ecosystems near consumption points to supply local authorities (schools, hospital canteens, etc.) or supermarkets in the agglomeration… .

Photo Une Les Crudettes

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