- Crop selection
- Lighting selection and design-in
- Airflow design and climate control
- Spacing strategies for plants
- Crop logistics and automation
- Irrigation and nutrition
- Data, sensors, control and software
- Substrate choice
- Target audience and sales channel
When we look at how to get the highest return on an investment for a vertical farm, we focus a lot of attention on creating a facility that allows you to produce the highest yield of crops (measured in grams) using the most ideal amount of light (measured in moles or mol). That’s because your LED grow lights are amongst the highest expenses in terms of the city farming infrastructure and operation. Keeping that in mind, here are a few of our most valuable tips for increasing your grams per mol.
Step 1: Get the climate right
One aspect that many new vertical farm growers overlook when they are creating an indoor farming environment is maintaining the best climate conditions. If we assume 50% of the electrical input power is converted into light, the remaining 50% is converted directly into heat. A proper airflow can remove this direct heat, but also the light that will be absorbed by the crop will indirectly be converted into heat. Typically the crop evaporates water into the air to get rid of this heat, therefore this process will result in a higher humidity of the air. To keep increasing humidity and temperature under control, you must start with a good ventilation and air handling system in your vertical farm. Not installing a proper climate control and air handling system will decrease your yields, resulting in additional costs and hassle after installation to fix inefficiencies.
Step 2: Get the lighting right
Once you have a good climate, how can you get the highest yields from it? We have done hundreds of research projects on growing plants indoor focusing on yield and the most optimal light intensity for a certain crop or variety. Yield however is not always the most crucial and single most important part. Let’s take red oak lettuce as an example. When this lettuce is grown outside in a field, it turns red because it is stressed by the sun or large temperature changes and it typically yields less compared to its’ green version. When the same variety is grown indoors, it remains mostly green because there is no UV light, but it does develop fast and shows comparable or sometimes even better growth than a green version. The researchers make a coloration light recipe for red oak lettuce that turns a mostly green head of red oak lettuce into a dark red lettuce in just three days. Growers can grow a large head of lettuce in their regular growth cycle, apply this light recipe as a pre-harvest treatment, and get a great quality crop with much higher yields and the proper appearance. Together with breeding companies we screen and help them develop varieties that could support growers to help them differentiate even more based on taste, quality or color.
Step 3: Get the spacing right
The spacing strategy you use when growing plants indoors is another way to improve your grams/ mol. You want to space plants so that each one gets an optimal amount of light and you are lighting the plants instead of the shelves they are on. Knowing the ideal spacing strategy can avoid you having to invest in spacing robots because you can check the extra yield spacing plants delivers compared to the investment needed for automation of this strategy. For our vertical farm projects, we can contribute to your business calculations with advice on the best spacing and light recipe to use for each crop. Based on that information you can decide if manual spacing or spacing robots are the most cost-efficient choice for your facility. Next to that our cooperation with the leading breeders in the industry will enable you to pick the right variety for your crop specific requirements.
Quote from “Roel Janssen”.