Innovation: a “Vertical Pharmacy” to cultivate medicinal plants

From ENEA and Idromeccanica Lucchini Spa a vertical greenhouse to grow medicinal herbs with a high content of active ingredients to be used in the production of drugs and supplements

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Create a sort of Vertical Pharmacy to grow medicinal herbs with a high content of active ingredients to be used in the production of drugs and supplements. This is the goal of the collaboration between ENEA and Idromeccanica Lucchini Spa which uses the Vertical Farm as the perfect ecosystem to produce more nutritious and healthy food species, isolating the environment from external pathogens and pollutants.

“The highly technological and automated systems of this type of farm that use LED lighting for soilless cultivation are able to recreate the perfect environmental conditions to optimize plant growth, maximize their nutrients and increase their production, thanks to the cultivation over more annual cycles than the single cycle on the ground ”, explains Gabriella Funaro, ENEA researcher of the Innovation and Development Department.

Within each floor of the vertical greenhouse you can find hydroponic or aeroponic cultivation systems, which allow you to use up to 95% less water than traditional cultivation techniques, without exploiting the soil and in the total absence of pesticides and insecticides.

“In this case the idea was to ‘marry’ the pharmaceutical field, strongly desired by Idromeccanica Lucchini, focusing on the quality of the final product to enhance the specific peculiarities of each plant”, continues Funaro.

Among the “candidate” plants for a guaranteed quality production with greater yield over time: saffron, ideal for producing food supplements to support the treatment of depressive and ocular diseases, and Siberian ginseng, a species extremely rich in energizing and stimulants used in the nutraceutical field.

“Since 2014 Idromeccanica Lucchini has invested in the vertical farm by developing and improving cultivation technologies. From the first prototype of a vertical greenhouse in Italy, conceived together with ENEA on the occasion of EXPO Milan 2015 and passing through the BoxXLand project, the preliminary experiments concerning medicinal species for pharmaceutical use were completed in 2020. Hence Cultipharm, a business model that leads our company to no longer only sell technology for vertical cultivation but an entire integrated system. At Idromeccanica Lucchini, what will be the future for others is already the present for us “, underlines Massimo Lucchini, CEO of the company of the same name.

In Italy, the production of officinal herbs has always been insufficient to meet the growing demands of consumers who increasingly turn to natural cures. The pharmaceutical industry that uses active ingredients of plant origin still imports a lot from foreign markets, whose supply chain is not always as controlled as the Italian or European one. “Producing plant essences necessary for pharmaceuticals would therefore immediately guarantee a commercial outlet for the products grown in the vertical pharmacy”, concludes Funaro.

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