The role of technology in vertical farms

Vertical farms rely heavily on smart technology, data insights and precise controls to grow quality crops.

amBX talks to Stefan den Boer of Bever Innovations on their podcast about the role of technology in vertical farms, the challenges and opportunities they face, and tips for optimizing operations and improving results.

Bever Innovations are known as an innovator in the LED lighting industry, they have been established since 1996 and work in multiple application areas including indoor agriculture.

Below are some key points from the conversation. To listen to the entire episode, click here.


AmBX

How important is precise, detailed light control in this environment?
“In a vertical farm, you try to create the best conditions for your specific crop. Lighting is an integral part of the process, because without light the culture will not grow. Vertical farms have no exposure to daylight because you want to be able to control the circumstances as much as possible. This means using a climate camera to recreate the perfect circumstances every time.

You can keep changing circumstances 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, researching and investigating the best possible light colors, humidity, temperature, watering conditions, etc. All factors are important; the combination of all of them really makes the difference.”

What is the benefit of a vertical farm?
“Growing crops has traditionally meant that you are always dependent on the weather; even if you grow in a greenhouse, adverse weather conditions are still a factor. “In indoor growing, the climate and the seasons have no influence, so you’re actually trying to create the perfect conditions to get the maximum yield.”

How energy efficient are vertical farms?
“If you do a 1-to-1 comparison between vertical farms and traditional farming, then you’re always going to be better off getting your energy from the sun. But realistically, we’re in a situation where that’s not possible. Climate change is happening, space is limited, and people have to live somewhere.

In terms of efficiency and consumption, it may be higher in a vertical farm, but yields may also be higher. This is a very difficult comparison to make; obviously energy from the sun is free, so the use of solar panels and other forms of renewable energy should be included to make vertical farms more sustainable, but if we want to have locally produced food that is pesticide free, I think that this is the only way to feed ourselves in the future.

You can also look at hybrid models. I think they are sometimes a bit overlooked. I don’t think traditional growers should give up and start vertical farming, but they might consider moving some of their crops indoors. For example, we have customers who are trying to save space in their greenhouses and have decided to move their young plants indoors instead of doing it on spread out tables, they are now using layered systems to grow their young plants in a much more efficient way and they get 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 customized dashboard displays information in a user-friendly format, or the normalized data can be sent to a third party, the cloud, or another system. Discover more here.

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