This article has been translated with DeepL.

NEW RESEARCH | Hard-coded lettuce revolutionizes business model

Europas största anläggning med vertikal odling ligger i Huddinge utanför Stockholm. Foto: Johan Marklund.

Vertical farming is on the rise in Sweden and could be part of the solution to the food of the future. Investors are keenly watching the industry, which is seen as creating value in a whole new way.

Scanian farmers field-growing all the lettuce that is then bought by consumers in Norrland may soon be history. Linus Thomson, Luleå University of Technology, who in his doctoral thesis has studied innovative digital business models in vertical farming. It is the cultivation of crops, mainly leafy plants, in a strictly controlled indoor environment, usually based on very advanced technology.

– Lettuce and herbs are produced within weeks without pesticides and with 98% less water than field crops. And because the crop is independent of the weather, it can be grown all year round anywhere in the country.

“God over production”

Linus Thomson. Photo: Åsa Stubbfält.

The technology controls light, air and nutrient levels and can use different parameters to simulate frost, for example, to develop a specific flavor profile desired by consumers.

– Some consumers want their salad to be peppery, while others want a milder version. You control the variables to produce the desired product, a vertical grower is the god of production,” says Linus Thomson.

Unique in their entrepreneurship

Vertical farms are being developed and operated by start-ups in particular. The entrepreneurs behind it often have a research background in agriculture or biology and run the farm together with individuals with high-tech expertise. Through technology, they have completely new ways of producing food.

– The supply chain is short because you can have your farm anywhere near the consumer, and retailers can place orders for their vertical farmer with less notice than is needed by traditional farmers,” says Linus Thomson.

In this way, he argues that vertical farmers are unique in their entrepreneurship.

– Research suggests that to succeed as an entrepreneur you need to find either a new way or a more efficient way of doing things. But vertical growers meet both criteria with the help of technology. They create and deliver value in a unique way. In that sense, you could say they are revolutionizing the business model,” says Linus Thomson.


More about the thesis
Linus Thomson defends his thesis on June 19, 2023 at Luleå University of Technology with the thesis Innovating digital business models: Empirical insights from Industry. In addition to the study of business model innovation in vertical farming, in his doctoral thesis he has studied digital business models and innovation in industrial ecosystems in Sweden and globally. To the thesis.