The vertical farming market has been growing exponentially in recent years, and though the industry is proving to be increasingly more profitable, the practice of vertical farming is not without its challenges.
Here, Ian Hart, Business Development Director at adi Projects, a division of the multi-disciplined engineering firm adi Group, gives advice on the engineering solutions businesses need to adopt in order to be successful.
First and foremost, vertical farming facilities have to maintain a delicate indoor environment that satisfies particular conditions. This chiefly involves the presence of purified air that allow crops to grow without being contaminated by pests, spores, and yeast.
"Air needs to be treated first to remove the contaminants within the air stream, with the added challenge that the air itself will become wet due to the water evaporating from the plants, and this air can't simply be let out through a window if you are to avoid contamination," says Ian.
To avoid waste and the added costs of cleaning air to such a high standard more times than strictly necessary, businesses need to rely on systems that can exploit the air's dew points and allow the water to condense back out again.
"It's all about facing up to specific challenges and designing bespoke solutions that can keep the environment within these facilities as pure as possible," continues Ian.
Being mindful from the onset will ensure continuity throughout, removing risk during the planning and construction stages and for the duration of the facility's lifecycle.
Though the majority of vertical farming facilities are dedicated to cultivating food crops, being able to grow products of a consistently high standard is particularly important in the context of medicinal plants such as cannabis.
Failing to control air circulation can lead to a build-up of harmful contaminants that, left uncontrolled, will inevitably damage the crops. This is where the aforementioned design factors become even more relevant, as even minor miscalculations can cause producers to fail quality standards and be unable to sell their products.
"Ultimately, vertical farming provides a number of real opportunities to help brands forge solid reputations as innovators and help create circular economies. However, businesses have more to learn."
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