In the Republic of Sakha, Artem Vladimirovich Usoltsev, a Yakutsk-based hobby farmer has been experimenting with cucumbers, cultivated under LEDs. Artem wanted to prove that cucumber cultivation is possible, even in the most bizarre weather conditions in northern Russia. Namely, by growing them in an indoor farm which enabled year-round cucumber cultivation.
“I started experimenting with cucumbers because it’s a vegetable that plays a big part in the regional cuisine and is part of every family’s diet.”
Artem’s farm is 12m2 and counts 48 cucumber plants, which he planted about 4,5 months ago. In the farm, precision drip irrigation is used to water the crops. According to Artem, he can yield 280 up to 290 kilograms per month which he sells locally. “My selling price is higher than the imported produce. People praised the cucumbers for their freshness and taste, which was a great statement for me,” he notes. His goal is to create an optimal growing recipe to eventually increase the production volume and supply high-quality cucumbers throughout the region.
More suitable than greenhouses
The advantage of growing in indoor farms, according to Artem, is the absolute control of the microclimate, creating ideal growing conditions. Next to that, compared to greenhouses in the region, says Artem, this indoor farm enables to produce at a low cost. The ability to grow year-round isn’t possible in a greenhouse here. He notes: “We’re only able to harvest one month a year and the other months we’re importing vegetables which are expensive and of poor quality.”
Artem says that he struggled to find the right technology for growing his cucumbers in combination with LEDs. This brings him to his next point: "I found it so hard to choose the right LEDs and analyze their capacity. Luckily, everything worked out well and I’ve been growing for a long time now. I believe that with the right technology and the presence of technological charts, growing cucumbers indoors isn’t more complicated than growing them in greenhouses.”
In cold regions such as the Republic of Sakha, a large amount of money is lost to energy, by heating the greenhouse. “Whereas in my vertical farm, I use the heat emitted by the LEDs to heat the space. Therefore, this growing technique is very promising in our region,” Artem says.
In the future, Artem notes, I believe it will be possible to reduce production costs even more. This, however, is influenced by the following factors. The climate zone the indoor farm is located in, in terms of optimal control on heating- or cooling costs. Then there are electricity costs, making use of natural gases will reduce costs up to three times, Artem claims. “However, as for now, my main goal is to reduce the energy consumption of my LEDs.”
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Artem Vladimirovich Usoltsev