An indoor vertical farm built close to the Vatican has celebrated its first harvest.
It was built on 60 hectares of land southwest of Rome and is owned by a Catholic foundation that provides education and work opportunities to young refugees.
The Taiwanese-designed project was constructed after just three months of preparation.
The Vatican is Taiwan’s only European diplomatic ally, with Taiwanese Ambassador Mathew Lee touring the facility earlier this month to mark the milestone.
He said the project had been inspired by Pope Francis’ call for a more active response to environmental problems and climate change.
The farm uses vertically stacked shelves to grow plants through more efficient management of temperature, irrigation, and lighting.
It uses less land and water, and produces higher yields with fewer fertilisers and pesticides.
Taiwan, meanwhile, is seeking to use smart agriculture to turn the island into one of the world’s great fruit and vegetable providers within the next 30 years.
Its sees the future of food growing as based in factories served by robots rather than land based, and sees tomorrow’s farmers employing solar and advanced light technology, chemicals, gene editing, drones, smart sensors, software, algorithms, data mining and big data.
As with the Vatican project, it is already exporting such technologies, with the 14-story vertical farm in Copenhagen, Denmark, built using a blueprint of patented technologies from Taiwan’s YesHealth Group.
The group was the brainchild of serial tech entrepreneur Winston Tsai. He founded YesHealth Agri-Biotechnology Co Ltd in 2011 and six years later established YesHealth iFarm in Taoyuan’s Luzhu District.