From South Tyrol to Outer Space: Plants for all Occasions Grown in Bolzano

It looks like science fiction, but it’s innovative crop farming: The “microcosm” developed by the FOS tech company promises a wide range of applications, up to and including cultivating edible crops in space. But in their lab at the IDM Business Incubator in Bolzano’s NOI Techpark the company is also investigating other applications, such as biological pest control in South Tyrolean agriculture.


Flowers and herbs are welcome guests on our balconies. But let’s be honest: If you don’t happen to have a green thumb, you will constantly worry about the survival of your herbal flatmates. It may still take a while for the “microcosm for crop cultivation under controlled biotic and abiotic conditions” to arrive on our balconies, but in the meantime, this environmental simulator that is partly being developed in Bolzano is arousing great interest. The concept is the brain child of the FOS Group, a tech company working out of the NOI Techpark and specialising in the integration of information technology with agriculture and forestry.


The team headed by Giovanni Giannotta has developed an artificial ecosystem in which various crops can be cultivated, from basil to tomato vines and even olive trees. “The main innovation here is that the system is divided into two independent chambers: one for the roots, and one for the part of the plant that grows above ground. This allows us to observe growth very closely, and we can adjust the ambient conditions in the individual chambers completely independently as required,” says the Local Manager of FOS.


As it can be difficult and costly to adjust aerial conditions, the air and soil used in the system are completely “normal” and untreated. Their properties are monitored closely, however, and modified to achieve ideal growth conditions. Factors such as temperature, humidity, and light can thus be regulated as needed. The light conditions are particularly important in this project, which has been developed and patented by FOS in collaboration with the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA). “The right light conditions can increase a plant’s growth by as much as 30 per cent. The simulator can be scaled to such an extent that not only herbaceous plants but also woody plants such as small trees can grow there. It is also possible to transport the system to places that are unsuitable for crop cultivation, such as airports, underground stations, or desert areas – and even space. The range of practical applications is of great use to both science and the public,” says Giannotta.


One of those practical applications is also experimented on in Bolzano: In its laboratory at the NOI Techpark, FOS is investigating new technologies to simulate and fight pest infestation in the microcosm on behalf of agriculture: an abiding theme for South Tyrol’s important agricultural sector. In addition, the company is developing an innovative technology for precision agriculture together with the Free University of Bolzano as part of the APFEL project co-funded by the Province of Bolzano. For pest control purposes, the farmland is monitored automatically in a locally precise manner and the health of the crops is checked constantly.


Since 2016 the FOS company has had its own laboratory at the IDM Business Incubator. The NOI Techpark is not only home to 28 start-ups but also to 24 tech companies. These tech companies are businesses from South Tyrol and beyond who are pursuing a research and development project at the NOI Techpark. Their place within the Business Incubator grants them access to state-of-the-art research labs and numerous other on-site services.


For more information:

Giovanni Giannotta

+39 0471 098048

From South Tyrol to Outer Space: Plants for all Occasions Grown in Bolzano