Environmental impact assessment: will vertical farms upend conventional agriculture?

A vertical farm in Taoyuan City’s Lujhu District is the most productive example of CEA in Taiwan, according to Jesper Hansen, chief commercial officer of YesHealth Group, the company that designed and operates it.

The farm, inaugurated in 2017, yields 1.5 to 1.6 metric tonnes of lettuces, cruciferous vegetables, and herbs every day of the year. Its growing chambers, which cover 3,000 square meters, are dominated by 10m-high, 14-level sets of shelves on which 50 farming staff nurture leafy greens.

YesHealth Group founder and CEO Winston Tsai comes from a technology background. His passion for pesticide-free food dates from his battle with a liver tumor several years ago.

The company’s first hydroponics facility, set up in 2013, produced 200kg of produce per day. “At that time, it was considered quite a sizable vertical farm,” says Kevin Lin, YesHealth’s director of business development. That site, superseded in terms of efficiency as well as size, now functions as the company’s R&D center.

Identifying and recreating the ideal conditions for a particular plant isn’t easy. Lin gives as an example the constant breeze that blows over YesHealth’s lettuces. “Getting the windspeed exactly right took us several years,” he says, adding that, by mixing the air, wind helps plants to absorb more carbon dioxide.

Some vertical farms are airtight. One advantage of a closed system is that the amount of carbon dioxide in the air can be enhanced so as to boost photosynthesis levels. In places that are exceptionally hot or unusually cold, closed systems are more energy-efficient, because they reduce the need for cooling or heating.

The Taoyuan facility has an open system. As air is drawn in, it’s filtered to keep out dust and insects. Different crops thrive best in different light spectrums, and the farm’s LED arrays can be adjusted to achieve these conditions.

Read the complete article at www.taipetimes.com.

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