Ekonoke launches first beer made from fully hydroponic hops
23 Sep 2022 --- Spanish hops manufacturer Ekonoke is growing fully-indoor hops in Madrid in a controlled environment that measures carbon dioxide levels, temperature, lighting, humidity and photosynthesis, allowing up to 52 harvests per year without using pesticides.
“Our production process is fully automated, including climate control, fertigation and photoperiods and can be controlled remotely from anywhere. We are currently improving automation in the harvesting and post-harvesting stages,” Inés Sagrario, co-founder and CEO of Ekonoke, tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
“We use machine and deep learning in our facilities in order to fully control production, improve our methods and anticipate any possible production issues. We use scientific knowledge and technology to allow us to maximize the yield and quality obtained per plant while minimizing the use of precious resources: energy, water and nutrients,” she explains.
Ekonoke details that it is aiming to be a global hops supplier in the near future, using its fully scalable proprietary technology. To increase production, the company is moving to a 1,000 square meters site in Galicia, Spain.
Their first beer, “Respect!”, developed in collaboration with Estrella Galicia is commercialized as the first beer made exclusively with indoor hops.
Climate resilient beer
The company flags that hop production is massively concentrated in the US and Germany, which hold 80% of the global output.
Unfortunately, according to Ekonoke, production is under significant threat from climate variations in terms of quantity and quality of annual harvests.
“Extreme droughts, erratic temperature patterns and generally higher summer temperatures are affecting aroma hops and their acid contents (by up to 60%). Year-on-year yield variations can move +/- 30%,” underscores the business.
Crops across the Northern Hemisphere have seen diminished yields this year due to severe droughts. In Mexico, severe droughts have sparked temporary production shutdowns and calls to move production to regions with increased water availability.
Water and electricity disparities
The controlled environment allows for extreme water savings compared to regular agriculture, added to the company’s use of a recirculating irrigation system, which recycles most of the water used to grow the plants, a 95% reduction in water use is achieved.
However, being an indoor crop, its energy use is substantially higher.
“Although we are constantly making efforts to reduce our energy use, we still use considerable energy, as is the case in any vertical farming operation. In our case, however, we only use renewable energy in our operations,” explains Sagrario.
By Marc Cervera
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