Conveyor systems technology can help indoor farming operations grow to new heights while improving productivity, efficiency and ergonomics, according to Ultimation Industries LLC, a leader in conveyor technology and automation for over 30 years.
“Harnessing unused vertical space through the use of motorized and overhead conveyors helps indoor farmers maximize their footprint while achieving greater efficiencies in food production and improved ergonomics,” said Richard Canny, president of Ultimation Industries.
Customized and automated
Ultimation is a provider of customized conveyor and automation solutions for indoor agriculture. They design and build systems for vertical farms of all sizes, including a major system for a West Coast-based vertical farming system which is among the world’s largest.
In a typical indoor agriculture facility, workers move through the growing area to plant, monitor and harvest crops. Multi-tier operations may use time-consuming and potentially dangerous lifts to take employees up and down as they perform their daily tasks. Conveyor technology can move plants through automated systems as they grow, bringing them down to the operator level when needed for more efficient, and ergonomically friendly, handling.
The conveyors and industrial automation equipment used in vertical farming include many of the traditional conveyor types such as gravity roller, belt, and skate wheel or flow rail conveyors. These conveyors are among the most versatile because they help reduce the manual labor of carrying items by hand.
Larger systems use vertical elevators or Power and Free conveyors. Power and Free conveyors are the ultimate in space and volume optimization for vertical farming systems as they enable tight concentration of product in some areas while also enabling separation of the products for movement to processing areas.
More recently, the technology used in larger vertical farming systems is including motorized and overhead conveyors. These systems take advantage of unused vertical space above a working area and bring plants down to an operator level when needed.
“Using robotics and conveyors has been shown to help vertical farms maximize their growing operations and reduce costs. We believe that indoor farming systems are best optimized through a balanced use of low-cost material handling systems for slow-growing areas. They are complemented by more sophisticated conveyors and other devices for faster moving material handling tasks,” said Canny.
Ultimation’s indoor agriculture solutions range from simple flow rail systems up to more comprehensive systems for larger indoor vertical farming facilities. The company's systems meet food-safe requirements for lubricants, oils and greases.
“As indoor farmers work to achieve greater efficiencies in food production, conveyor systems technology is likely to be part of any economically viable and scalable solution,” said Canny.