Vertical farms are heavily reliant on smart technology, data insight, and precise control to grow quality crops.
amBX spoke with Stephan den Boer from Bever Innovations on their podcast about the role of technology in vertical farms, the challenges and opportunities faced as well as tips to optimize operations and improve results.
Bever Innovations are known as an innovator in the LED lighting industry, they have been established since 1996, and they operate in multiple application areas, including indoor farming.
Below are some key highlights from the conversation. To listen to the episode in full, click here.
How important is precise, granular control of light in this environment?
"In a vertical farm, you're trying to create the best conditions for your specific crop. Lighting is an integral part of the process because, without light, the crop would not grow. Vertical farms do not have exposure to daylight because you want to be able to control the circumstances as much as possible. This means using a climate chamber to recreate the perfect circumstances each time.
You can continue to tweak the circumstances for as long as you like and still get new and better results. There are people who have been working in this field for over 20 years, exploring and researching the best possible light colors, humidity, temperature, irrigation conditions, etc. All factors are important; it's the combination of them all that really makes the difference".
What is the benefit of a vertical farm?
"Growing crops traditionally means that you're always dependent on the weather; even if you grow in a greenhouse, adverse weather conditions are still a factor. With indoor farming, weather conditions and seasons have no impact, so you're actually trying to create the perfect circumstances to get the maximum yield".
How energy efficient are vertical farms?
"If you make a 1-to-1 comparison between vertical farms and traditional farming, then it's always going to be better to get your energy from the sun. But realistically, we're getting into a situation where that is not a possibility all the time anymore. Climate change is happening, there's limited space, and people have to live somewhere.
In terms of efficiency and consumption, it might be higher in a vertical farm, but the yields might be higher too. It's a comparison that is very difficult to make; obviously, the energy from the sun is free, so using solar panels and other forms of renewable energy should be incorporated to make vertical farms more sustainable, but if we want to have locally produced food, which is pesticide free, I think it's the only way to feed ourselves in the future.
You can also look at hybrid models. I think they're sometimes a bit overlooked. I don't think traditional growers should quit and start vertical farming, but they could consider moving some of their crops indoors. For example, we have customers who are trying to save space in their greenhouses, and they have decided to move their young plants indoors instead of doing it on tables all spread out, they're now using multilayer systems to grow their young plants in a much more efficient way, and they're getting much better results".
amBX's multi-protocol communication allows data to be aggregated and displayed in a central source. Their system monitors lighting as well as Co2, humidity, temperature, and other factors. The custom dashboard displays information in a user-friendly format, or normalized data can be sent to a third party, the cloud, or another system. Discover more here.