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Why is the European Ecolabel a challenge for vertical farming?

Learn more about the EU Ecolabel and why the vertical farming sector is demanding a change in its regulation.

Nowadays, agriculture is facing challenges such as the exponential increase in deforestation, exposure to climate change, soil degradation and fresh water consumption. As a result, more sustainable forms of food supply, coupled with technology and research, such as vertical farming, are increasingly being considered.

Considering the current expansion of this activity, the vertical farming sector is encountering certain limitations when it comes to applying for some sustainability standards. For instance, obtaining certifications such as Eco Label, to attest that the food generated by vertical farming is sustainable. Startups in the sector claim that these tough standards are blocking the food sources development and research that share the same ecological objectives as those set by Brussels.

Let's start with a brief introduction of what the EU Ecolabel consists of, how it works and in what situation companies such as ours are left with.

What is the European Ecolabel?

The Ecolabel is an organization founded in 1992 and its objective is to certify Type I environmental labeling systems.

There is usually a 7-step application process in which the company must demonstrate that its product meets strict ecological criteria.

It is recognized in all European Union countries, including Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland. This label is a seal of approval that signifies that the product being purchased contributes to reducing pollution. The eco-label is therefore only awarded to companies based on the ecological criteria indicated.

Even during the pandemic, the number of Ecolabel products and licenses has continued to grow. The current number of eco-labels awarded is the highest ever at 89,357 products, including a wide range of cleaning products, household appliances, textiles, lubricants, paints and varnishes. However, the label currently does not include food, beverages, pharmaceuticals or medical devices.

Why does Groots not have the eco-label and when is this expected to change?

According to the European Commission: "Plants must be produced on and in a living soil in connection with the subsoil and substrate. This is a fundamental principle of organic production". Therefore, vertical farming based on hydroponic production does not meet the standards for organic production according to the EU. However, the framework of regulations that must be complied with in order to obtain eco-labels is beginning to be evaluated. One example that gives hope to our sector is that in the United States, hydroponic vegetable production has begun to be considered as organic and sustainable production.

Groots is a sustainable company that focuses on vertical farming. Our mission is to promote a change in traditional agriculture and the need to implement a new agricultural method: more efficient, sustainable and resistant to climate change. In addition, at Groots we market sustainable, locally produced and healthy products, growing more than 25 varieties of vegetables and aromatic plants all year round thanks to vertical farming technology. We are currently operating the largest vertical farm in Spain and therefore we are seeking to have the EU organic label. However, due to strict soil regulations, Groots is currently unable to obtain certification.

Nevertheless, this does not discourage us because the production of Groots has many advantages.

  • First, the farm operates consistently throughout the year. Regardless of weather and environmental conditions, which allows for consistent product quality. Moreover, our crops are not treated with even a hint of pesticides.

  • Second, the production warehouse is located next to the distribution and consumption centers. Thus, shortening the supply chain allows consumers not only to keep track, but also to access local products. In addition, stores can receive fresher products, which is crucial to help adapt to changes in demand and combat food waste.

  • In addition, production is fully sustainable, as the hydroponic system is able to reduce water consumption by 90%, eliminate deforestation and erosion of fertile soil, minimize transportation and related CO2 emissions, and is pesticide-free.

  • We are 50 times more productive and need 96% less space and we produce locally, thus fighting against the deforestation that traditional agriculture causes.


At Groots we will continue to grow and not let these limitations stop us. In the not too distant future, we hope to start experimenting with growing berries and other leafy greens so that we can offer a wider variety of seedlings. We also hope that the EU Ecolabel will soon accept and embrace the idea of vertical farming using a hydroponic production system, as we believe it is the future of agriculture, along with other sustainable practices such as regenerative agriculture.

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