Indoor Farming Hydroponic Saffron

Indoor Farming Revolution for World’s Priciest Spice

Hydroponic Saffron | By John Jeffay |

AI technique of rising saffron is 50 instances extra productive

It’s not laborious to grasp why saffron, probably the most prized of all spices, is known as “purple gold”.

It’s costly. A single gram (0.03 ounce) of real, top-quality saffron will set you again $20. Examine that with a good caviar at simply $4 to $6 a gram, or a gram of precise gold which, at as we speak’s value, prices $56.

Its workforce of knowledgeable agronomists have developed know-how to provide 4 harvests a 12 months, as an alternative of 1, and to develop the corms (that’s the right time period for a saffron bulb) indoors, moderately than in open fields.

An Israeli startup is about to disrupt the world’s saffron market with a revolutionary new technique of cultivation.

Above: Saffron rising on the Saffron-Tech premises in southern Israel. Courtesy

It’s not promising to carry the worth down in a single day, nevertheless it does say it is going to be in a position, for the primary time within the spice’s historical past, to offer a dependable provide chain.

Your entire saffron trade is fraught with issues, for the farmers and the suppliers. There’s just one harvest a 12 months – a three-week interval in November and it’s extraordinarily labor intensive.

Pickers harvest the flowers by hand and use tweezers to extract the three crimson threads or stigma from every flower. 100 flowers – 300 stigmas – yield one gram of saffron. And in order for you high-quality saffron, you must harvest it early within the morning, when it flowers.

Eighty per cent is grown in Iran, and  the provision chain is riddled with corruption. Pretend saffron is masqueraded as actual, actual saffron is combined with components, saffron is smuggled in suitcases, cash is laundered via saffron, the truth is any crime linked to high-value items might be additionally linked to saffron.

Saffron-Tech, a startup based in 2020, is remodeling the best way saffron is grown, and, probably, the best way it’s traded.

Its workforce of knowledgeable agronomists have developed know-how to provide 4 harvests a 12 months, as an alternative of 1, and to develop the corms (that’s the right time period for a saffron bulb) indoors, moderately than in open fields.

They use refined vertical-farming strategies, with layer above layer of the corms, in situations the place the temperature, humidity, and irrigation and are strictly regulated by synthetic intelligence.

It’s the primary important change to the best way saffron has been grown commercially in centuries, and is 50 instances extra productive than area cultivation.

“The primary problem is to take these corms and develop them indoors utilizing indoor vertical farming,” says Tal Wilk-Glazer, the corporate’s newly-appointed CEO.

“By doing so, we resolve the problems round high quality and round amount, and we principally repair the provision chain.”

Above: Layers of saffon corm (or bulbs) being grown utilizing the brand new AI-controlled farming technique. Courtesy

Round 70 per cent of the world’s saffron is utilized in kitchens, and 30 per cent for cosmetics and meals dietary supplements – to fight nervousness, melancholy, ADHD and different situations.

However international manufacturing is caught at round 20 tonnes a 12 months. Examine that with, for instance, garlic, at 28 million tonnes a 12 months.

A complete array of doable makes use of for saffron have by no means been absolutely explored, not merely due to value, however due to unreliable provides.

“The massive gamers within the well being trade don’t use saffron as a uncooked materials  as a result of the absence of steady, good and dependable provide chain,” says Wilk-Glazer.  Many of the saffron they’ll be rising will go well being moderately than meals industries, she says.

“There are totally different qualities of saffron, totally different branding and totally different positioning. Saffron from a village in Switzerland can value $100 per gram.

“Saffron from India or from Iran could be $7 a gram. The typical value for top of the range, genuine, not fraudulent, however actual saffron is round $20 a gram.

“Gold is a little more costly as of late. However to provide 1kg of saffron you want 100,000 flowers. That’s plenty of work.

“We’re rising hydroponic saffron in a managed atmosphere and every little thing is indoor. We handle to make the saffron perceive that the 12 months is progressing faster than actual time, so that they flower 4 instances a 12 months.”

She gained’t, understandably, delve into the element of how they do it.  “It’s the appropriate recipe, a mix of exterior and bodily situations,” is all she’ll say.

They don’t use genetic modification. Moderately, it’s “a mix of very deep agronomical data and know-how” that permits them, to control the saffron corm.


Above: Every saffron plant yields three purple threads, or stigma. Courtesy

Chief agronomist Tomer Ben Michael has been making use of the data acquired throughout his PhD on garlic to good the brand new technique of cultivating hydroponic saffron, and he’s been working alongside fellow consultants in saffron and hashish, in addition to garlic.

The corporate is presently in analysis and growth mode, rising 10,000 corms in whole, and attempting out 100 totally different subgroups inside species crocus sativus.

It goals to begin producing saffron commercially at Moshav Mavki’im, in southern Israel, near Gaza, in 2023, and to scale issues up in 2024.  It additionally grows saffron utilizing extra conventional strategies within the Golan, northern Israel, for management and comparability functions.

“In the beginning, it is going to be simpler to have the appropriate prospects and to compete on high quality and the soundness of the provision chain, not attempt to beat the worth of the Iranian farmers,” says Wilk-Glazer.


Above: Tal Wilk-Glazer, CEO of Saffon-Tech. Courtesy

“Rising indoor on the finish of the day is pricey. The price of electrical energy is excessive, and labor could be very costly.  The primary farm will concentrate on the well being trade.

“The expectation, a minimum of for the primary two years, is to not cut back the worth or to turn out to be the dominant participant out there. At this time the market is round $1bn.  It will be good if we had 5 per cent of it in three or 4 years.”

She says as soon as saffron manufacturing turns into steady, shoppers, particularly within the well being sector, will turn out to be extra involved with the focus of lively substances – a lot as they’ve with hashish.

“The sport changer is the flexibility to offer giant quantities of a steady, lively high-end compound that’s very clear, with no fertilization. The expectation  is to not break the market value however to extend the market.

Saffron rising the old style approach, within the Golan, northern Israel. Courtesy

“We spoke with many vertical farming corporations that attempted to develop saffron. It’s identified for its excessive market worth, so it’s very horny for corporations to attempt to develop, however all of them reached the conclusion that it’s not economical, or it’s too laborious.”

She acknowledges that different corporations have had partial success with rising saffron indoors, however they use a hybrid technique, flowering indoors after which placing them again outdoors within the area.

She stated plans for the close to future embrace creating a robotic in a position to harvest the flowers and separate the all-important saffron stigmas. The corporate is presently crowdfunding via the Piplebiz platform