Fraunhofer IME develops indoor vertical farming system for plants

Molecular Biology /

© Fraunhofer IME | Andreas Reimann
© Fraunhofer IME | Simon Vogel
© Fraunhofer IME | Simon Vogel

Continuous, pesticide-free and sustainable farming of plant-based food inside buildings? Within the project “OrbiPlant®”, the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME has developed an innovative, automated plant farming system to make this possible.


From lettuce and herbs to root vegetables – people want their daily ration of healthy, plant-based food. Especially in urban environments there is a huge demand for constant availability as well as high product requirements: fresh, natural, sustainable and resource-conserving. In order to fulfill this, a method known as “indoor vertical farming” has been established in the food technology sector, where agricultural products are not conventionally grown in the field but in controlled, closed systems. OrbiPlant®, the plant farming system developed by Fraunhofer IME, also follows this method.

“Fresh, healthy greens everywhere for everyone”

The automated pilot facility grows both edible as well as medical plants within a 24 m² cultivation area. Compared to other indoor vertical farming methods, OrbiPlant® offers a number of process-related novelties. It employs an integrated, wave-like conveyor system, which fixates the individual plants and continuously realigns them. That way, the production of certain plant hormones is increased, leading to quicker leaf growth and higher biomass gain (orbitropic effect). Moreover, the system features an aeroponic irrigation system, where the plant roots are hovering in the air while being sprayed with water and nutrients. Modular LED technology ensures an ideal light exposure, while additional CO2 ferilization increases both quality as well as harvest size.

The highly flexible OrbiPlant® system can continuously provide different kinds of plants, fully independet of weather, time of day and season. Significant advantages are the automation and scalability of the farming process, which allow for the optimization of propagation requirements such as light, nutrients or even the taste of the produce as well as increased productivity. Furthermore, OrbiPlant® contributes to a cost-efficient and sustainable production of plant-based food since it only applies a minimal amount of resources such as water and fertilizer. Lastly, a completely pesticide-free cultivation delivers a healthy, high quality end product.

The cultivation of more than 80 different plants, including lettuce, herbs and potatos, has already been tested in the patented OrbiPlant® system. It could be observed that, in particular, some types of lettuce attained higher biomass and a timelier crop in comparison to greenhouse farming.



Simon Vogel

Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME

Forckenbeckstr. 6

52074 Aachen