PRESS RELEASE: Erkner/Heinsberg, 10.02.2022. SUNfarming Group AG is one of Germany’s leading project developers and investors in the field of solar energy and is also a pioneer in the development and operation of agri-photovoltaic systems. This type of plant enables the dual use of photovoltaics and agriculture through elevated glass-glass solar modules. This enables the farmer to cushion the effects of climate change, increase crop yields through higher-value crops and at the same time produce electricity himself. For many years, SUNfarming Group AG has been cooperating with the Institute for Plant Sciences at the Jülich Research Centre, both at the Jülich site and abroad, to research the development of different types of plants under the modules. In addition, the resulting contribution to the additional water supply of plants and soils is being investigated in order to be able to evaluate the influence gained from these innovative systems for plant production in climate change.
In a cooperative project between the Jülich Research Centre and the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE), SUNfarming was commissioned in 2021 to develop two new types of system and implement them at the newly developing Morschenich-Alt development site near Jülich. The first is a further development of the so-called SUNfarming Food & Energy System type with a higher clearance height of over 2.50 m and greater post spacing, which also enables the use of larger agricultural machines. The other is a so-called SUNfarming Food & Energy Tracking System as a special design with modules that track the position of the sun to increase yields and a total height of more than 6 m and a clearance height of 4 m. The latter is used to research different shading systems. The latter is used to research different shading scenarios for the plants as well as more efficient rainwater management to make crop cultivation more climate-sensitive.
After a development period of just under 9 months, the SUNfarming Group, known for its technical development services, was able to install the entire facility in Morschenich-Alt at the end of 2021. From completion in February 2022, the facilities will not only provide the framework for comprehensive research work on all aspects of plant cultivation in agri-solar systems, but will also produce approx. 300,000 kWh of solar energy per year, which, among other things, will supply the research site with sustainably generated energy and thus avoid the emission of over 140 t of greenhouse gas per year. SUNfarming Group AG has also founded SUNfarming West GmbH at the Heinsberg site in 2021 to expand its business activities in North Rhine-Westphalia and the neighbouring Benelux countries.
“We have already been working successfully with the Jülich Research Centre for many years, especially in the field of agri-photovoltaic systems,” explains David Morr, Head of Department for Food & Energy Projects at SUNfarming. “In this cooperation project between the plant scientists from the Jülich Research Centre and Fraunhofer ISE, we were able to contribute our high level of technical development expertise in the agri-solar sector, which we have acquired over many years in our own research and innovation park at the Rathenow site in Brandenburg. Based on the requirements of our clients, we were thus able to construct two food & energy plant types for Morschenich-Alt, which practically demonstrate new solutions for multiple land use, with regard to the production of solar energy as well as the cultivation possibilities for berry fruits, medicinal, oil and fibre plants under changing climatic conditions,” says David Morr.
Only about 20 km away from Morschenich-Alt, the first 5 megawatt SUNfarming eco-solar plant is currently under construction on a former gravel pit in Heinsberg. This plant is also the first of its kind in the Rhineland and is expected to be connected to the grid in April 2022. Further projects in the Heinsberg district are already being planned.
SUNfarming West GmbH
Am Vossenweg 2
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FEED President Peter Schrum and Vice President Edith Brasche visited FEED projects in the Potchefstroom region in November and met other new partners to expand sustainable development aid in the Potchefstroom region and beyond.For more information, visit FEED.
With the two concepts “Eco-Solar” and “Agri-Solar”, SUNfarming has set the course for project planning for solar parks on former agricultural land in 2021. “With our dual-use concept for open-space plants, we can significantly expand the biodiversity of the land in addition to producing green electricity,” says SUNfarming Group CEO Thies Schrum.
The SUNfarming Eco- and Agri-Solar Systems have clear unique selling points due to bifacial glass-glass modules, an elevated substructure and a specifically developed rainwater distribution system. The dual-use concepts offered have been refined for years in some cases with sheep, bee and poultry farming (eco-solar) as well as vegetable and medicinal herb cultivation (agri-solar). “We have further developed our Food&Energy system from abroad over the years and adapted it to the German market and have thus not only created a space under the modules, but also very concrete concepts whose feasibility we have already proven. This is a huge advantage,” continues Thies Schrum, CEO of the SUNfarming Group.
SUNfarming already has several hundred hectares of eco- and agri-solar plants in approval procedures in Germany and plans to roll out the concept further. “We want to make a decisive contribution to the energy transition with this and see ourselves very well positioned to do so,” concludes Schrum.
This year, two further research projects were realised in Rathenow. The Jülich Research Centre analysed the plant growth of various ornamental plant species in different shaded areas. As a second research project, plant physiological parameters were investigated in a scientific set-up. The results are currently being evaluated by the Jülich Research Centre and will be published at a later date.
Two other ongoing research projects of SUNfarming are the fertiliser concentrate production from the liquid fermentation residues of the biogas plant in combination with plant production in the Food & Energy plant and the solar module cooling combined with the reuse of the heat gained for plant cultivation. The results will be published in 2022.
National and international representatives from business and politics show great interest in the forward-looking research projects and have regularly visited the Rathenow Research and Innovation Centre to learn about the projects and further planning during plant tours led by our expert staff. Among others, the Minister of Economics of Brandenburg and the Ambassador of Panama and many agricultural interest groups visited us.
The previous SUNfarming research results of the Agri-Solar plant in Rathenow show that solar energy combined with food production and valuable herbs is an ecologically highly topical issue for the coming years. Our excellent results show that valuable medicinal herbs and regionally produced vegetables can be successfully grown in our SUNfarming Agri-Solar facilities, even on sandy soils.
“To date, we have trained 685 potential new gardeners in the SF Community Entrepreneur training programme. We have created new school gardens on a total area of about 4000 m². From our first trainings at BA Saobi Secondary School in Ikageng, spinach is already being harvested and used in the school kitchen,” enthuses Melanie Jooste, Team Leader SUNfarming South Africa.
In addition, during the project period 2021/2022, 28.8 million servings of high-quality, healthy Vitality Porridge developed by SUNfarming will be delivered to more than 40 schools over a period of 18 months through the SF Vitality Porridge food aid programme. It will be distributed to 10,000 school children and 50,000 relatives.
The SUNfarming DeveloPPP project is supported in its organisation by the June & Andrew Mlangeni Foundation, the non-profit association F.E.E.D. (Food-Energy-Education-Development e.V.) Hamburg and the F.E.E.D. NGO South Africa. (The German non-profit association FEED and its sister organisation in South Africa are additionally collecting donations from international donors, companies and foundations in order to further expand the urgently needed and sustainable development aid in South Africa in addition to the DEG project.
1. Biofertilizer from fermentation residues:
Development of a solar-powered process to process digestate from biogas plants and produce liquid biofertilizer
2. PV cooling mat:
Solar power generation by cooling PV modules using innovative cooling mats and combined use of heat potential (PV cooling mat)
3. Artemisia annua cultivation:
Sustainable cultivation for ecological and economical cultivation of Artemisia Annua in partially shaded agri-solar systems
4. Aquaponics in PV plants:
Development of an energy sustainable and resource efficient aquaculture cycle system under the partially shaded areas of Agri-Solar plants
Development of an autonomous agro-robot for efficient Artemisia cultivation in Agri-Solar facilities
The total complex consisting of a skylight dome hall, 2 shed roof halls, 2 x light weight halls, 2 Food & Energy facilities and a social building has 730 kWp of installed PV capacity with an energy production of 690 MWh per year.
The pictures show some of the steps in the production process:
Trainees receive hands-on instruction in the selection and proper sorting of harvested mugwort.
Afterwards, the mugwort is gently dried slowly at below 40 degrees in special drying houses powered by solar energy. Slow drying is crucial for the active ingredient content.
After drying, the mugwort is sorted again and then ground into a fine powder.
The finished powder is filled into bags or buckets and delivered to a food factory for further processing.
During the two-year project period (2021/22), 28.8 million packs of Vitality Porridge will be distributed to over 10,000 school children and 50,000 family members, 40 school gardens will be created and more than 1,260 unemployed people will receive training to empower them to become self-sufficient.
In 2020 SUNfarming successfully carried out the DeveloPPP project “Vitality Porridge” to combat the consequences of Covid-19 with the help of DEG in South Africa. Over 10,000 school children and their families were directly supplied with high-energy, healthy food (SF Vitality Porridge). In certified training courses, teachers and unemployed relatives of school children were taught theoretical and practical knowledge about ecological, water-saving vegetable growing and healthy eating. As a result, numerous vegetable gardens for self-sufficiency were created in the townships.
Despite the success of the Vitality Porridge Project, there are still major problems providing school meals for the children from families in need. We are therefore pleased to now work with DEG on a significantly larger training and supply project in South Africa with a total volume of almost 10 million euros.
The SUNfarming DeveloPPP project is supported by the June & Andrew Mlangeni Foundation, the non-profit association Food Education Energy and Development e.V. (FEED) of Hamburg, and the F.E.E.D. NGO of South Africa. The non-profit association FEED of Germany and its sister organization in South Africa collect donations from international donors, companies, and foundations to further expand the urgently needed and sustainable development aid in South Africa and that is in addition to the projects through DEG.
The SUNfarming COViD-19 Response Program, which is geared towards sustainability and helping people to help themselves, is divided into three program parts:
SF Vitality Porridge Food Aid Program:
More than 40 schools, 10,000 children and 50,000 of their family members will take part in this sustainable project aimed at helping people to help themselves. Also, 28.8 million packs of high-quality & healthy Vitality Porridge produced by SUNfarming will be delivered and distributed over a period of 18 months.
Vitality Porridge contains not only multiple vitamins and nutrients but also medicinal herbs such as artemisia (African mugwort), turmeric, and ginger to enhance the immunity of the human body.
Training courses on all aspects of organic vegetable growing and healthy eating will again be part of the program.
“The medicinal herbs for the Vitality Porridge are already being grown, dried, processed and bottled by trainees as multiple cultures (intercropping), together with various types of vegetables, in our Food & Energy Training Centers. The extruders provided on the Food & Energy plants for the production of Vitality Porridge have been technically enlarged so that they can produce up to 200,000 food portions per day, ”explainsPeter Schrum, SUNfarming founder and main shareholder.
“We would like to extend our sincere thanks to DEG for the renewed support without which we would not be able to implement this Covid-19 Response Program,” continues Peter Schrum.
“We are very pleased to have a reliable partner at our side in Sunfarming, who has been assuring its corporate responsibility in a number of countries for many years. This is anything but a matter of course, we very much appreciate the constant, reliable commitment of Sunfarming to the implementation of the project, ”says Manuela Marques, Head of Customer Solutions at DEG..
The courses offered are monitored by the South African authority SAQA (South African Qualification Authority). The successful candidates are awarded certificates at the end of the program in a small ceremony to symbolize its national recognition of the qualification that facilitates them to enter into the skilled labor market
Rural parishes support the project comprehensively by encouraging the participation of communities and also by providing their plots of lands for the practical training courses. As a result, such lands owned by churches should continue to be cultivated by parishioners and serve as a source of food for the needy in those communities.
The Covid-19 Response Program offers immediate aid against hunger and, at the same time, sustainable help for self-help through certified training courses in vegetable growing and healthy eating for the local population. Labor is required for production in the Food & Energy centers. Accredited Agri-SETA trainers in organic vegetable cultivation trained by SUNfarming South Africa take on the training of these workers. In this way, new jobs are also created on site.
The theoretical and practical training includes everything necessary for a successful harvest, from soil preparation to sowing, irrigation and pest control. Those plots laid out by the first group are expanded and maintained by subsequent groups. In the course of the growing season, the following groups can learn practically how to control pests and how to prune. Intercropping with medicinal herbs, the use of organic fertilizers, and the efficient use of water resources are covered during the training courses.
The produces, mainly vegetables are sold to the school on favorable terms for the consumption of students & staff. As such, this program has been successful in ensuring multiple benefits such as healthy food, skills development on organic farming, and also it creates enthusiasm and passion for farming. All these benefits are to ensure much sustainable culture towards the well-being of the next generation in the country.
“With the COVID-19 response program for South Africa, which is co-financed by DEG, we are in a position to bring our valuable and long-term experience with food & energy technologies, especially for school children, and approx. 60,000 people daily for 18 months with SF Vitality Supply porridge. We give people a new perspective for life, ”explains
David Morr, Project Manager International of the SUNfarming Group.
Daniel Alex, DEG project manager, explains: “This project is very unusual in terms of its size and the effect it will achieve. We rarely reach so many people on different levels – this is made possible by the enormous range of activities. Thanks to the two-pronged approach, we are able to combine short-term food support with the development of sustainable structures for the permanent improvement of living conditions in the areas in South Africa severely affected by Covid-19.”
Gustav Radloff is not only an excellent CEO, but also a top runner at this year’s kayak marathon in South Africa. With this victory he qualified for the 2021 World Cup in Romania.
And as if that weren’t enough, he took part in two more marathons in the 45-50 and 35-50 age groups, where he came second and fourth.
The SUNfarming team warmly congratulates. We are very proud of him.
-I had a wonderful lifetime experience , as a not so technically person I truly have to say @Faure van Schalkwyk you are a super teacher / facilitator…@Anelda you are fantastic administrator. Thank you guys for a super experience and everyone whom I met , never was made to feel like I was less qualified thank you guys . I pray we all succeed in our future endeavors and may our paths meet again as we grow in the industry.. God bless you all Gentleman. Even me as a technical person really learned a lot.
-Thank you to all and for everything Faure and Anelda. You are legends.
-Yes. Thank you all. Learned an awful lot. Laughed and worried. You are very wise men with many years of knowledge and experience. Thank you Anelda for all your hard work and Faure. I will come and do it with you again anytime. It was awfully nice
-Best online Presenters i have experience – kept once attention at all times
-They have given us a good content and very easy to grasp. They interacted with everyone well
-They are all prepared and professional
-Very impressed with the presenters’ ability to stimulate participation. Kudos to the team for the video training setup which I think is quite effective.
– …it is always a pleasure to attend SSEG courses. Faure, Dr Botha and Josh are fantastic and is professional