Italian good news: It is by looking up that we move forward
- WTI Magazine #147 Jan 22, 2022
Luca Travaglini, co-Ceo and co-founder of Planet Farms, the largest vertical farm in Europe, is the Italian Tech Person of the Year, the person who in 2021 has best used technology to realize his business and have a positive impact on society. Luca has been chosen among 12 finalists, voted by a technical jury and by the audience in the hall and in streaming.
42 years old, son of entrepreneurs (his grandfather in 1948 industrialized the process of drying and seasoning of cold cuts), degree at the Bocconi University, experience in Ernst & Young and then in the food industry, working for the family business. In 2015 he lived a bad health experience.
"When you suddenly lose perspective one day, once you regain it, you can only turn it towards the future, towards future generations, and in my case my three children. At that point, there's no stopping you."
As soon as he has the strength to get back up, Luca starts researching food. He understands that "we are what we eat". And, together with his childhood friend Daniele Benatoff, he created the largest vertical farm in Europe, just outside Milan, in Lombardy. It is also the most advanced in terms of technology and automation. An incredible place, more than 10 thousand square meters of innovation in Cavenago in Brianza. The best of technology combined with the best of Italian agronomic tradition.
"I was on a plane when I had the idea. I was reading one of those magazines you find in the pocket of the front seat. There was an article about how vertical farms could be an answer to the Fukushima nuclear disaster. I saw the light. However, I realized that the Japanese or American models could not stand in Italy. They did not produce quality products and were neither efficient nor sustainable. They sell a kilo of salad for 100 dollars. I take away a zero".
It took more than four years of research and development to arrive, in October 2021, at the opening of the vertical farm.
"In the early years of my business, I couldn't find anyone to say 'yes' to me. After my illness, everyone thought I had gone off the deep end. But I knew what I wanted to do."
In the Cavenago vertical farm, a seed goes in and a finished, packaged product comes out. Healthy, fresh, quality, with a very low environmental impact and available to everyone. Planet Farms has developed a vertical cultivation system that saves 95% of water and 90% of soil. Crops are independent of weather conditions, salads and basil are available 365 days a year. No leftover, harmful waste or pesticides. And total traceability. "I fought for the right to know what we're eating. The salad we produce (already in 300 supermarkets in northern Italy) is the most transparent and natural product there is."
"I dream of creating vertical farms in the world and bringing food where there is none."
This is how Luca wants to revolutionize traditional agriculture and help the world grow, thanks to technology. One vertical farm after another. With a mix of tradition, innovation, social and environmental responsibility.
"We have to be optimistic because the future is today, we have to create it, and tomorrow is already late" he commented yesterday from the stage, collecting the award.
"Go Vertical" is the startup's motto. And, for Luca and Daniele, it's not just about developing crops vertically, but also looking up in their dream of reinventing the future. "We changed the perspective. Because it's by looking up that we move forward."