As the vertical farming industry pushes the boundaries of space use efficiency, it is also confronted with challenges resulting from an increasing rack height and a decreasing distance between shelves, or tiers. These challenges are centered on the limited air circulation within racks and the development of microclimates. Santa Cruz-based company Vertical Air Solutions (VAS) was established in 2017 to address these exact issues.
“When you move to a racking platform for cultivation, you run into a lot of impediments throughout the space. The ever-shrinking volume of air between the canopy and the next tier is a perfect place for microclimates to form and create pathogen pressure. While you can easily supply all of your conditioned air around the rack, how do you eliminate microclimates, improve air circulation and supply conditioned air inside of the rack? That is why we developed VAS,” says founder James Cunningham.
Vertical Air Solutions’ air circulation system provides a low-profile ducting that pulls air from outside the vertical racking platform and delivers it in laminar flow throughout the tiers. The system consists of a mixing chamber mounted to the end of the rack and low-profile ducting made of form-fold metal. The ducting, which is available in 4’ and 8’ sections, is folded on-site and connected like Legos to the length of the rack. Once installed, the air circulation system allows growers to de-stratify microclimates and homogenize environmental conditions to achieve a consistent and uniform production.
While growers have typically needed to maintain a considerable distance between the equipment and the plant canopy, James explains that VAS’ system has proven successful with as little as 3-6” between the ducts and canopies, allowing growers to increase cropping density without jeopardizing plant health.
Vertical Air Solutions has a 0-10V speed control, allowing the grower to tailor the velocity of the airflow. The system also has an injection port for carbon dioxide to optimize CO2 enrichment and a compact air filter to prevent the circulation of dust and debris. James also explained that by strategically supplying conditioned air near VAS’ mixing chamber, the system can “supply less humid, more conditioned air to the space while achieving all of the benefits of localized airflow.”
Vertical Air Solutions is establishing a global presence, with installations across North America and others pending in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Central America and Africa. In December 2020, VAS announced its acquisition by Pipp Horticulture, an industry-leading provider of mobile carriages, vertical grow racks, grow trays and mobile carts and storage lockers.
As James explains, “We are looking at a big year with some of the biggest players in the industry. We’re really excited about our partnership with Pipp Horticulture as well. Their support is going to be huge for us in servicing global markets and gaining regional sales support.”
For more information:
Vertical Air Solutions
James Cunningham, founder