27 February, 2021

Innovative companies changing the face of vertical farming

23 October, 2020

Vertical farming, the practice of growing crops indoors under tightly controlled conditions, is continuing to expand rapidly. Here, we explore some of the most innovative vertical farming start-ups, based on the recent IDTechEx report, ‘Vertical Farming 2020-2030’.

Freight Farms

Freight Farms is a Boston-based vertical farming company that manufactures ‘container farms’, vertical farming systems installed into 40’ mobile containers. Alongside its container farms, Freight Farms provides the farmhand software, a hydroponic farm management and automation platform that also connects users with other Freight Farms customers. Container farms have many advantages - they are easy to transport, compact and relatively cheap to set up in comparison to other vertical farming systems. Container farms are often turnkey systems, too, meaning that they require much less experience and expertise to operate than either a factoryscale vertical farm or indeed a traditional farm.

Sensors continuously monitor the growing conditions

Freight Farms recently released its most advanced container farming system, the Greenery, which it believes is the most advanced container farming system in the world. The Greenery is a turnkey system that uses an array of sensors to continuously monitor the growing conditions inside the farm, with the farmhand software automatically making adjustments and planning watering cycles in order to provide the optimum environment for growing crops and allowing users to control their Greenery remotely from a smartphone.

80 Acres

Despite their potential, many vertical farming start-ups have struggled over the years with the labour costs and power requirements for running a high-tech indoor farm. This has often forced producers to sell their crops at a much higher price than conventionally farmed leafy greens. Additionally, many founders of vertical farming companies have little experience in the food industry and can struggle with the day-to-day realities of running a food production industry.

80 Acres is an Ohio-based vertical farming start-up aiming to overcome these challenges by constructing what is claimed to be the world’s first fully automated indoor farm. The company was founded in November 2015 by Tisha Livingston and Mike Zelkind, who between them have over 50 years’ experience in the food industry.

Control and fertigation systems

Collaboration is also important to 80 Acres. The company believes that vertical farming is a very multidisciplinary field, requiring collaboration between partners who are experts in their own discipline. Signify (formerly Philips Lighting) developed the LEDs used in the facility and Dutch greenhouse automation company Priva developed the control and fertigation systems, with 80 Acres using its experience in food to bring the system together and integrate the technology.

Robotics, artificial intelligence, data analytics and round-the-clock monitoring sensors and control systems

The company currently operates a 75,000 sq ft facility in Hamilton, a suburb of Cincinnati, which is set to expand to 150,000 square feet in summer 2020 following a $40 million investment from Virgo Investment Group. When completed, 80 Acres claims this facility will be the world’s first fully automated indoor farm. The farm will be automated from seeding to growing to harvesting, using robotics, artificial intelligence, data analytics and round-the-clock monitoring sensors and control systems to optimise every aspect of growing produce indoors.

Jones Food Company

Jones Food Company is a British vertical farming start-up that operates Europe’s largest vertical farm out of a warehousei n Scunthorpe, UK. It was founded in 2016 by James Lloyd-Jones and Paul Challinor, who wanted to build the largest vertical farming facility that they could in order to help overcome some of the operational problems plaguing the industry and bring vertical farming to the mainstream. After visiting several vertical farms in Japan, they decide that the only way to make vertical farming a success is to focus on scale and automation.

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