Vertical farming is a rapidly growing industry and crucial sector required to support the increasing demands placed on the agricultural, horticultural, and similar industries.
Advanced technologies, full automation, software integration, and data are amongst the essential factors required to increase crop yields, improve productivity per m3, and make better use of natural resources.
What are the basics of vertical farming?
Vertical farming increases farm capacity (net growing space) by optimising growing conditions and utilising stacked ‘shelves’, maximizing overall output and revenue per unit of space. The increasing number of innovations taking place in indoor farming mean that the sector is progressively moving away from premium-priced products alone, and more towards price parity in certain geographies.
Root and vine vegetables, herbs, soft fruits, and even plants like hemp can all be grown using vertical farming methods. Because of this, it is easy to see why capital investment across the industry has increased in recent years, with companies like Amazon, UHNW investors, family offices, and ESG-focused funds investing in the space.
The manipulation of sophisticated LED lighting, temperature, humidity and often CO2 makes this approach more precise, more ethical, and more efficient than traditional (broadacre) farming and greenhouse farming. The fact that vertical farms can be built pretty much anywhere, including in existing buildings, also means that distressed assets can be repurposed for future use.
Why is LED lighting important in vertical farms?
Artificial LED lighting is an essential component of farming indoors. Lights that can push high intensities without leading to increased thermal load (otherwise stringent cooling measures are needed), is key to providing constant light uniformity and some farms also utilise a high CRI light option, allowing for the clear inspection of plant health.Multivariate LED lighting also enables growers to create ‘light recipes’ which bring out different characteristics in plants – from aesthetics through to nutrient content and flavour. This is otherwise not possible to achieve if plants are grown outdoors or in greenhouses.
One example of this is the use of blue light to prevent the stretching of leaves and optimization of photosynthesis. This is why, in any material you see of vertical farms in the near future, it’s likely that you willl see red/purple hue tints present, depending on use.
What does this mean for the future?
It’s not hard to see why faster, better, CAPEX competitive, higher-yielding, software-controlled, and space-optimised, stackable vertical farming options represent the future of farming.With such high levels of performance, the utilitarian ideals of how to manage resources all of a sudden become less of a fantasy and more of a reality. Finally, the requirement for less land, no soil, and significantly less water collectively mean that potential unintended consequences of vertical farming include rewilding and improvements in biodiversity. It’s an exciting time, so be sure to watch this space.