Can cucumbers and tomatoes grow in vertical farms? A key consideration is the amount of space that cucumbers and tomatoes can take up. As they grow on vines, the vertical height could mean that they take up more space than other types of plants. For that reason, iFarm wanted to find a way to grow cucumbers and tomatoes that maximizes growing space in order to achieve high yields and maximum profitability. In this article, they share their experiences.
Using an aeroponics growing method, iFarm agronomists are already successfully growing tomatoes and cucumbers in a totally enclosed space. Here, you can see what the root system of a tomato plant looks like when grown using the latest iFarm tech:
To facilitate the cultivation of tomatoes and cucumbers in this new growing environment, iFarm's agronomists are using cubes of mineral wool as a substrate. Already proven as a suitable substrate, mineral wool allows both seedlings and adult plants to develop well.
In addition to this, cubes of mineral wool are environmentally friendly and recyclable, which ensures that vertical farms can continue to operate sustainably and provide an eco-friendly alternative to traditional farming methods. However, the benefits don’t stop there. As the mineral wool substrate takes up minimal space and reduces the need for water and fertilisers, vertical farms can maximise their yield, reduce costs and increase profitability.
To date, two varieties of cucumbers are being grown using this method of cultivation in iFarm labs: medium and short-fruited.
Drip irrigation delivers nutrients to the root of the plant, while the vine grows upwards, resting on a trellis for support. As vines can grow up to 18 meters, they reduce the size of the stem as it grows and harvest from the lower levels to ensure there is no reduction in the yield of the crop. This methodology means cucumbers and tomatoes can be incorporated into new and existing vertical farms, and deliver increased profitability.
Based on the current growth experiments, medium-fruited smooth cucumber plants produce approx. 1.2 kg of produce per plant, per week and short-fruited cucumber plants provide around 0.6-0.7 kg of produce per plant, per week.
Following the success of these trials, two farms are set to launch using this latest iFarm technology. One of them will start operating in Russia in November 2021, and the other will open in Qatar in January 2022.