Case Study: Korean ginseng
With its unique cultivation requirements and intense pressure on production, ginseng has emerged as a prime example of the environmental challenges of botanical sourcing. This is why ginseng was selected as proof of concept for BOTALYS’ technology: not only because of its profound medicinal and cultural value, but also its significant environmental footprint.Discover the Challenges of Ginseng Sourcing
Ginseng therefore stands as a critical case study to underscore the urgent need for innovative sustainable sourcing solutions within the botanical industry. And by committing to an approach that protects the unaltered state of nature, we at BOTALYS have become the custodians of Korean ginseng’s sustainable sourcing.
Ginseng sustainability metrics
- Massive Deforestation
- Pesticide Use
- Water Pollution
In ginseng requires a highly nutrient-rich soil to grow, and therefore frequent soil rotation. In addition, the infiltration and persistence of chemical inputs in the soil aggravates the progressive impoverishment and sterilization of the cultivable land dedicated to ginseng; which usually limits its use to only 2 harvests.
As a consequence, massive deforestation is used to constantly renew agricultural surfaces and keep up with ginseng demand, at the cost of irreversible loss of natural biotopes. In the main Chinese production province of Jilin alone, it is estimated that ginseng farming clears 7000 hectares of forest each year .
This is equivalent to 6481.5 soccer fields deforested annually - a harsh testament the devastating environmental cost of ginseng cultivation.
BOTALYS’ farm is designed to expand vertically over time, further increasing the surface yield of our vertically farmed ginseng. The increase in production capacity is achieved without any alteration of natural wild biotopes or deforestation.
In addition, controlled environment agricultural systems like BOTALYS’ can be optimized in terms of nutrient input, not only making them far more resource-efficient but also eliminating the detrimental effects of chemical fertilizers, which can lead to soil pollution and depletion.
Ginseng cultivation is a long-term investment for farmers; it takes the roots an average of 3 to 6 years to reach maturity—a period during which the plant is vulnerable to pests and adverse climatic conditions. To maintain crop health and ensure a profitable harvest, ginseng growers frequently resort to the massive use of phytochemicals and pesticides.
Not only is pesticide persistence in the soil highly damageable for the environment, but these practices also carry significant risks to human health; they result in the frequent contamination of ginseng roots with pesticides and heavy metals, whose ingestion (even in trace amounts) is detrimental to health.
Even with a conservative approach based solely on prophylactic pesticide use guidelines and hypothesizing that the necessary treatment episodes are zero (due to unpredictable occurrences), the significantly underestimated pesticide use still amounts to 292 grams per square meter of farmed ginseng land  over a period of 6 years (2 cycles of 3 years each, according to the Chinese standard).
That would mean that over six years, the cumulative pesticide load on just one year's deforested land for ginseng cultivation in Jilin Province would amount at least to an alarming 20,440 tons.
By definition, Biomimetic Indoor Farming renders the use of pesticides unnecessary: the immaculate environment in which plants grow is exempt of any form of pest - therefore eliminating their correlated risks on health and environmental pollution completely.
Traditional ginseng farming practices, with their high water demands and extensive pesticide and fertilizers use, pose significant risks to water quality.
Ginseng cultivation not only demands substantial irrigation to replicate the plant's humid mountain forest forests of origin, but also leads to pollution of groundwater and local water bodies due to pesticides and chemical fertilizers leaching into the soil. In turn, water contamination from agricultural runoff can have detrimental consequences on ecosystems and pose potential risks to human health.
Biomimetic Indoor Farming allows for an optimized use of water resources, therefore reducing the water footprint of ginseng cultivation drastically.
More importantly, the process eliminates the risk of water pollution entirely: no pesticides or harmful chemicals are used in the process. In addition, any wastewater generated during production is free from contamination, since the water used in the controlled environment is purified.
 Dong, Linlin & Xu, Jiang & Li, Yong & Fang, Hailan & Niu, Weihao & Li, Xiwen & Zhang, Yujun & Ding, Wanlong & Chen, Shilin. (2018) - "Manipulation of microbial community in the rhizosphere alleviates the replanting issues in Panax ginseng." Soil Biology and Biochemistry. 125. 64-74.
 Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (Ontario). Publication 847 – “Crop Protection Guide for Ginseng”, 2021, https://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/pub847/pub847.pdf.
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