Source - Nuravine's automated nutrient delivery system in a vertical farm
As part of our Glens Falls project’s value proposition, we’ve collaborated with our farm’s technology partners, Nuravine and Fluence to bring you transparent insights to help other indoor growers in their journey towards setting up your own vertical farm.
For this week, we asked them: How can technologies related to climate control, lighting, etc. be better managed to reduce energy costs? What did our panel of experts have to say?
Nuravine - An environmental automation company serving the indoor farming and cultivation market.
Our advice is to start by getting the correct equipment for your facility, the external climate, and for the plants that you are growing. Ensure that you work with reputable equipment manufacturers so they get the correct products specific to your application. It’s important that they set the products up in a way that achieves the light and climate targets that are optimal for your plants. Having your horticulturalist or someone with a growing background is key whenever the manufacturers come in. Also, insulate your grow rooms properly so that it's easier to maintain a specific climate. If you can get more growth from the same amount of energy use, then you get more return for your investment in electricity.
Once you have everything set up correctly, proper maintenance and testing of your equipment is super important, again follow the protocols laid out by the equipment manufacturer. For example: replace your HVAC systems air filters when suggested. If the machines are not operating at peak efficiency you are going to be using more energy to hit your targets.
If you are running your HVAC system based on sensor readings, make sure that you are using quality sensors so that the equipment is only activated when it truly needs to be activated (instead of being triggered based on a false sensor reading or hitting a temperature which is not actually correct). You can also use Vapour Pressure Deficit (VPD), a measurement of water evaporating from a plant, to decide on what your temperature and humidity targets should be. There are many different combinations of temperature and humidity that produce the same VPD value, so you may be able to find a combination which requires less energy to achieve, while still producing the same results for your plants.
" There are many different combinations of temperature and humidity that produce the same VPD value, so you may be able to find a combination which requires less energy to achieve, while still producing the same results for your plants." - Nuravine
Fluence Manufactures lighting solutions for controlled environment commercial crop production
Introducing an LED lighting system to your vertical farm is an immediately impactful solution for reducing energy expenses. Put simply, advanced LED technology is 40% more energy- and cost-efficient than legacy lighting solutions such as high-pressure sodium (HPS) fixtures.
LED lighting solutions deliver light output that will achieve higher levels of photosynthetic photon flux density (PPFD) per joule of electricity over their service life compared to HPS fixtures. PPFD (light intensity) is perhaps the greatest environmental variable driving photosynthesis. Because LEDs are capable of achieving higher PPFD while optimizing electricity consumption, the technology not only results in improved energy efficiency over legacy solutions, but can lead to higher crop yields.
"PPFD (light intensity) is perhaps the greatest environmental variable driving photosynthesis. Because LEDs are capable of achieving higher PPFD while optimizing electricity consumption, the technology not only results in improved energy efficiency over legacy solutions, but can lead to higher crop yields." - Fluence
It’s also important to understand that your vertical farm’s energy bill is largely a reflection of how well you’re controlling your indoor growing environment. Vertical farms—especially in urban areas where many growers are likely paying a premium for electricity—must closely maintain optimal temperature, humidity, CO2, nutrient and media-moisture levels.
LEDs provide the foundation for enhanced control over nearly every parameter of a vertical farm’s environment because they emit significantly less heat than HPS fixtures. As a result, your HVACD unit becomes the central regulator for environmental factors and can run on stable, customized programs for cost-efficiency instead of relying on potentially unstable heat output from legacy light fixtures.
In the end, energy efficiency does not equal optimization, and cost savings mean little if you’re not also maximizing revenue potential. Every LED-based operation attempting efficiency gains must counterbalance it with an analysis of the facility’s comprehensive environmental parameters to maximize crop performance.
Any questions about the advice shared by Nuravine and Fluence? Reach out to us here and we’ll get back to you right away with more info.
You can also follow more insights from our partnership with Glens Falls and others committed to the Glens Falls Vertical Farm Public Pilot here. As we ramp up production, we’ll be sharing even more detailed insights, which could help your vertical farm.