The iFarm Veggies indoor farm is located in Northeast Asia, where the climate conditions are too harsh for outdoor crop cultivation, with temperatures reaching -20°C (-4°F) in winter and quite cool summer seasons, with average temperatures of 15 °C (59°F).
Another factor in favor of indoor cultivation here are the energy costs. They are relatively low in this region, which is fundamental for efficient vertical farming and indoor cultivation. Energy costs account for 20% of all production costs.
The farm was constructed right in a big-box shopping center selling gardening items, plants, seedlings, and furniture for gardens and country houses. The farm's owner Valeriy Prokopshin says the location is "very favorable" due to convenient infrastructure and low rent.
"In September 2022, the first seed was planted on the farm. After just two months, the first batch of cucumbers was shipped to retailers. By preparing the space for the farm at the same time as cultivating the seedlings, we were able to save time in launching production."
The owner of the hypermarket was just as enthusiastic as Valeriy about launching an IT-driven cucumber farm on his premises — another factor that facilitated the farm's fast setup processes.
The major advantage of the location is its direct-sales potential. The farm has plate-glass walls, allowing visitors of the shopping center to watch the vegetables being grown — and purchase some right away.
The yield produced is also supplied to local supermarkets for further sale. The pilot farm is 100% operationally profitable.
The farming facility has two separate sections: the cultivation area and the seedlings area, with a total cultivation space of 150 square meters.
The main cultivation area is 60 square meters and has room for over 480 short-fruited cucumber plants, with a yield of around 40 kg of cucumbers per day.
"At the moment, we are increasing the main cultivation area by 50%, which will bring it up to 90 square meters. This decision was taken based on the farm's financial performance and high demand for our products."
The seedling area is 14 square meters; over 800 plants can be grown there simultaneously.
The vertical farming system used for indoor cultivation of vegetables on this iFarm Veggies lab-farm is based on the low-volume hydroponic system method. It makes use of drip-irrigation hydroponics without recirculation of the nutrient solution.
The substrate consists of recyclable, compact cubes of rockwool. This reduces the need for water and fertilizers, making it not only a very sustainable method of cultivation but also cost-effective.
Currently, the farm is producing short-fruited varieties of cucumbers. Valeriy explains that his team experimented with different hybrids, including bee-pollinated ones. It turned out that these were far from being ideal in terms of taste and suitability for processing. Thus, it was decided to switch to a different hybrid variety.
A wide range of tests to discover the ideal light spectrum, nutrition, climate conditions, and hybrid diversity are constantly taking place on the farm.
Apart from experimenting with cucumber production, the owner is planning to extend the product line by growing hydroponic tomatoes indoors and to set up other farms powered by iFarm Veggies technology.
iFarm Veggies can be used for cultivating a wide range of vegetables, such as cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, radishes, and zucchini.
Unlike radishes, which can be grown on a multi-level farm, cucumbers and tomatoes are cultivated with the help of a specially designed rack system for a single-level growing area.
This rack system has only a single tier, with the plants taking up the full height of 4−5 meters. Support is provided by rigging items such as ropes, cables, and chains. Additionally, you can also opt to rearrange the LED phyto-lighting elements for added convenience.
The iFarm racks for vegetable cultivation are similar to the trellis systems used in traditional greenhouses, but the farming method is completely different. The substrate is made of cubes of mineral wool. Plants are fed via vertical farming systems such as flow hydroponics, drip irrigation hydroponics, or aeroponics.
The irrigation, lighting, and mixing the nutrient solution are all automated, along with full climate control on the farm.
The control system is powered by iFarm Growtune, an all-in-one farm management software. It acts as a farm control center, with climate control, monitoring system, planning, CRM, and much more.
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