Q1. How does location impact your indoor farm and its ability to generate a return on investment?
A1. Of the advantages of indoor farming, finding the right location might be the most appetizing. Reducing food miles and bringing food security to urban environments is a sustainable farming method that everyone can support. But, before you make a commitment to your farm’s location, it is important to understand your business needs.
The following questions will all impact your business and its ability to generate a return on investment:
- What are your town/city’s zoning regulations?
- Where does your product go, and how does it get there?
- Can you get enough electricity (and other utilities), and how much does it cost?
- What are the labor costs and regulations for your town/city?
Q2. How can investing in agtech increase crop production and reduce farm operating costs?
A2. In CEA, there is a correlation between your initial capital and eventual operational costs. Investment in technological advances can set your farm up with automation and machine learning, thereby increasing production and reducing labor requirements on tasks such as seeding, harvesting, or cleaning.
While cheaper options may seem more appealing, a higher-priced farm will come with more support and warranties on equipment, such as lighting and irrigation. Cutting costs on these items can cost you more in the long run.
Q3. How does crop cultivar selection impact the performance and profitability of an indoor farm?
A3. Crop selection will impact your farm in more ways than one. There are pros and cons to whatever cultivars you choose. For example, crops with short growth cycles usually require fewer inputs and produce more products. Slower-growing, high-value crops (like saffron or cannabis) will fetch a higher price. Some crops occupy a greater footprint, reducing the amount of growing space available for use in the farm. And, perhaps most importantly, you must ensure there’s a market for the crops you select.
Q4. What is predictive farming? How can it improve farm operations and ensure consistent output?
A4. Predictive farming is the integration of agricultural, biological, hydrological, and environmental data into a working model. Using A.i. and algorithms, farmers can predict outcomes, manage inputs and plan for changes in the future. This information can help business owners become proactive problem solvers who manage their farms from all angles. That includes:
- Forecasting yields
- Supply management
- Staff scheduling
Q5. Can generating alternative power (e.g., solar) help indoor farms overcome rising energy costs?
A5. While energy costs are going to vary based on location, it’s no secret energy costs can be high for vertical farmers. Exploring external energy sources – such as microgrids or solar power – can be an avenue for some farms to reduce dependency on municipal utilities and the costs associated with them.
Q6. Where can farm operators find dependable information to help them make informed decisions?
A6. When determining how to reduce vertical farm operating costs, it is important to consider the short and long-term financial commitments that can influence the performance of your facilities. From choosing a location to selecting the crops and technology for your vertical farm, each decision you make should be supported by in-depth research and proven performance in real-world applications. Most importantly, the choices you make must encourage and support the immediate and future business goals you have established for your vertical farming endeavor.