Food & beverage

What is it?  Hollbium offers hydroponics-as-a-service that supports indoor vertical farming by transforming walls to 'farmland'. Hydroponics is a method that grows plants in an aqueous solution without the need for soils (Verticalfarming, 2021). The hydroponic unit is called the ‘The Loop’.  It enables one to grow up to 24 healthy herbs, leafy greens and vegetables indoors (Hollbium, 2021a). The Loop system aims to bring ‘farm to the fork’, enabling local food production, making farming a natural part of every indoor environment (Hollbium, 2021a).   The modular design makes all parts replaceable and repairable. This technology contributes to sustainable and self-sufficient urban food production. Hollibium offers the Loop system through a subscription model (Hollbium, 2021b).

Why is this important?

Today’s food supply chain creates around 13.7 billion metric tons of CO2-equivalents, which is 26% of anthropogenic GHG emissions (Poore and Nemecek, 2018). Moreover, an estimated one-third of all the food produced in the world goes to waste (WWF, 2021). When food is wasted, all the energy and water it takes to grow, harvest, transport, and package it also goes to waste. Additional greenhouse gas emissions are produced in the form of methane when food waste ends up in the landfill.  Fresh fruit and vegetable can account for 85% of food wasted by mass, which makes up 46% of the total carbon footprint from wasted food (Oakes, 2020).  A solution is required to cut fresh produce waste, e.g. by growing it more locally and to demand, to minimize the environmental impact of the food sector.

Main resource strategy: Narrowing the loop by promoting locally sourced food made in a sustainable and self-sufficient way.

Other resource strategies:

Regenerating the loop by creating an indoor ecosystem that is beneficial to human health and wellbeing.

Closing the loop with the hydroponic unit made with recycled materials. Upon the end of the product lifetime, the entire unit can be repaired, reused and recycled.

Slowing the loop: Hollbium’s ‘Loop’ has a modular design using resistant material with high endurance, for durability and reusability.

Business model aspects:

  1. Value Proposition: indoor vertical farming that enables sustainable and self-sufficient urban food production
  2. Value Creation & Delivery: Hollbium offers its ‘Loop’ through a subscription service. The full service includes watering, organic nutrients, plants and general maintenance (Hollbium, 2021b).
  3. Value Capture: Hollbium gains revenue through installation fees and monthly subscription. The subscription is available from 2000 SEK/month/Loop (just under 200 EUR/ month) for 5-10 'loops' (Hollbium, 2021b).

Business model experimentation practices:

Since 2018, Hollbium now has 20 Loops across two pilots in Stockholm (Kraus, 2021). One pilot focuses on providing employee benefit by harvesting salad and herbs with the hydroponic loop. For this pilot, different spots were tested to find out the optimal spot for the Loop.  The second pilot focuses more on complementing the existing biophilic interior design of the chosen location (Kraus, 2021).

Sources:

Hollbium. (2021a). The Loop. Accessed 2 February 2021 at: https://www.hollbium.com/the-loop  

Hollbium. (2021b). Shape the Future and Show What You Value. Accessed 2 February 2 2021 at: https://www.hollbium.com/service-offer

Kraus, G. (15 February 2021). Personal communication [Interview].

Oakes, K. (2020). How cutting your food waste can help the climate. Accessed 25 February 2021 at: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200224-how-cutting-your-food-waste-can-help-the-climate

Poore, J. Nemecek, T. (2018). Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers. Science, 360(6392), 987-992. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aaq0216

Verticalfarming. (2021). The What and Why of Hydroponic Farming. Vertical Roots. Accessed 2 February 2021 at: https://www.verticalroots.com/the-what-and-why-of-hydroponic-farming/

WWF. (2021). Fight climate change by prevent food waste. Accessed 2 25 Feburary 2021 at: https://www.worldwildlife.org/stories/fight-climate-change-by-preventing-food-waste#:~:text=But%20wasted%20food%20isn't,more%20potent%20than%20carbon%20dioxide

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About project Circular X

Project Circular X is about ‘Experimentation with Circular Service Business Models’. It is an ambitious research project funded by the European Research Council (ERC) which supports top researchers from anywhere in the world. Project CIRCULAR X runs from 2020-2025.  The project is led by Principal Investigator (PI) Prof Dr Nancy Bocken, who is joined by a multidisciplinary team of researchers at Maastricht Sustainability Institute (MSI), Maastricht School of Business and Economics, Maastricht University. The project cooperates with businesses who want to innovate towards the circular economy.

Project Circular X addresses a new and urgent issue: experimentation with circular service business models (CSBMs). Examples of such new business models include companies shifting from selling products to selling services and introducing lifelong warrantees to extend product lifetimes. However, CSBMs are far from mainstream and research focused on experimentation is little understood.  The research aims to conduct interdisciplinary research with 4 objectives:

  1. Advancing understanding of CSBMs; their emergence and impacts
  2. Advancing knowledge on CSBM experimentation
  3. Developing CSBM experimentation tools
  4. Designing and deploying CSBM experimentation labs
Funding source

This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, grant agreement No. 850159. 

Using of this information

When you refer to this case, please use the following source:

Circular X. (2021) Case study: Hollbium: Hydroponics-as-a-service. Accessed from www.circularx.eu