New patented technology that recycles renewable energy is ready to revolutionize CEA (Controlled Environment Agriculture) and make indoor farming both more profitable and more attainable in remote rural areas. This upgrade in solar technology offers benefits for farmers, consumers, businesses, environmentalists and local governments.
Two businesses are building a prototype of the vertical farm of the future in Marquette, Kansas (pop. 620.) The indoor farm will recycle its own solar energy at night and during storms by absorbing LED light energy when it’s used to illuminate the interior growing spaces. The 60-unit, 11-acre prototype development will function independently of the local power grid using technology designed and built by Kansas native David Hinson, CTO of TSO Greenhouses.
This technology will reduce burdensome costs of power, water, financing, real estate acquisitions, and property taxes. Such hurdles have often been the downfall of previous vertical farms, especially in urban areas. The forward-thinking pair’s plan addresses and solves all of these challenges.
The duo’s “ag tech campus” model includes accelerated growing of all-natural, clean food and protein fodder as well as reliable 5G internet for rural farmers, citizens and businesses. The entire system will be powered by renewable energy and make digital telecom deployment more practical.
Hinson’s technology enables roof-mounted “solar trackers” to capture LED energy at night from the light reflected inside the structures that house hydroponic crops growing inside. These trackers rotate East to West when the sun is shining and then flip inward at night and during bad weather.
As a result, farmers can harness the energy generated “off-hours” to grow a variety of crops 24 hours a day in multiple vertical “stacks” based on bespoke microclimates. Growing by “zones” inside a multi-level structure boosts crop production and horticulture flexibility. Traditional indoor farms and rudimentary greenhouses usually grow only 1-2 crops for local distribution.
In contrast, these new farms will be able to produce 10-15 different plant species simultaneously. Increased agility and production speed will also improve vertical farmers' ability to react to sudden demand shifts.
5G Adds Lucrative Tech Payoff to Growth Cycle
Since the new 24/7/365 solar energy recycling technology only needs 33 percent to 40 percent of the harnessed energy, developers and farmers can sell excess energy for additional revenue. The local clean energy will power wireless 5G with the help of small rotating solar trackers with batteries. These trackers can be placed on community buildings, water towers, grain elevators, farm silos, bridge spans, existing cell towers and other permanent objects to ensure uptime and reliability.
This new source of 5G will create emerging markets for renewable energy, boosting rural economies. In the past, 5G telecom has been difficult to install and deploy in remote areas.
Path Diversity will be a game-changer
The pair plan to locate data centers near 100GB digital fiber trunks to further reduce the cost and time required to deploy 5G wireless. High-end data processing groups pay premium rates for 5G, which is rated as Tier 5 (aka T5 or always-on) based on its reliability. T5 is far less subject to outages and service disruptions.
Such state-of-the-art data centers are expected to attract the largest data processing groups in the world based on their enhanced functionality and amenities. This market also provides another lucrative revenue stream for farmers and tax-equity entrepreneurs interested in sustainability.
Investors Can Support Sustainability with “free money”
Freedom Farms CEO Geist and TSO Greenhouses Hinson have already raised nearly half a million dollars for Phase One, which will be the prototype of the vertical farming headquarters. They’re seeking an additional $2.5 million to finish the prototype by summer 2021.
Phase Two will be devoted to building 12 larger campuses that will fan out statewide from the headquarters in McPherson, Kansas. The entire $2 billion hub-and-spoke sustainability system is targeted for completion by 2030. Yields are expected to feed nearly 3 million residents statewide including many school lunch programs. Local hospitals, restaurants, colleges, universities, assisted living centers and public agencies are expected to become customers of the same-day harvests.
Investors will be able to reap these profits without ever risking their own money. Thanks to little-known U.S tax credit programs and clean-energy incentives, these projects don’t require a cash infusion. VC firms can "pool" their tax obligations, converting them to credits. This structure sets the project apart from previous urban farms or sluggish VC-funded startups.
Solar panels rotate with the sun so direct sunlight can reach inside the CEA facility and stimulate photosynthesis. Software allows the indoor farmer to create direct sun exposure on certain plants while creating shade for others, all based on each plant’s DNA preference.
The solar panels (modules) can be fully closed facing outward to create 100% shade inside if desired for any length of time controlled by the grower. By using TSO Greenhouses’ technology, vertical farmers and greenhouse growers can control and optimize sun and shade exposure simultaneously. This allows different crops to grow in zones inside the structure tailored precisely to receive the ideal light and shade to maximize plant life and production.
This 11-acre greenhouse will eventually serve as a headquarters to 12 smaller greenhouse hubs across Kansas. What makes this greenhouse unique is its ability to recycle solar energy to grow crops 24 hours a day while powering lucrative 5G data centers.