Vertical farms or indoor farms have the potential to achieve great efficiency in food production, promising less use of water and delivering fresh food produced efficiently from nearby geographic locations. However challenges remain – and conveyors and better vertical farming technology will likely be part of any economically viable solution.
What is vertical farming?
Vertical farming is a system for food production that is typically used in indoor farming systems. They work with surfaces or modules to hold the plants in position while they are in an environment where all growth factors are controlled. By controlling the light, temperature, humidity, water and nutrients that plants receive, indoor vertical farming can potentially achieve higher yields for a given surface area dedicated to production.
Conveyors are sometimes used in indoor farming to optimize the density of the plants as they grow and to move the plants through automated systems to reduce labor in planting and harvesting. High efficiency LED lights have greatly enabled more efficient vertical farming technology. However replicating the efficiency of the sun remains a major challenge that indoor farming companies hope to achieve through improved control of all other plant growth variables.
Types of Conveyors used by Indoor Farming Companies
Ultimation has supplied conveyors and equipment for vertical farming companies ranging from small gravity and belt conveyors from our “quick ship” product range up to major overhead power and free conveyor systems to support commercial scale production. Conveyor types used in vertical farming are:
- Gravity roller conveyors
- Belt conveyors
- Skate wheel or flow rail conveyors
- Overhead monorail conveyors
- Power and Free Conveyors
How do vertical farming systems work?
Vertical farming systems require great efficiency – volume each plant occupies, the energy to move product around, labor, ventilation systems, lighting and nutrients. Conveyors enable that efficiency of each resource to be optimized as much as possible. Ultimation’s customers include several of the leading vertical farming companies. The technology used by these vertical farming companies is typically top secret and therefore we’re not able to publicly show or talk in detail about the various types of conveyors that are used in vertical farming systems.
Automation for vertical indoor farms
Conveyors and industrial automation equipment used in vertical farming automation systems can include many of the traditional conveyor types such as gravity roller conveyors, belt conveyors and skate wheel or flow rail conveyors. But more recently the technology used in larger systems is including motorized conveyor systems and overhead conveyors. Power and Free conveyors are the ultimate in space and volume optimization for vertical farming systems as they enable tight concentration of product in some areas while then enabling separation of the products as and when required for movement to processing areas.
Indoor farm technology – Squeezing more plants into less space
Ultra high density vertical farming systems aim to optimize plant production relative to the productive space employed for the task. Conveyors are essential in that optimization process to use all the available vertical space of a facility. Vertical farming automation can enable spacing to change as plants grow throughout a facility. Technology used can include robots as well as overhead conveyors, floor conveyors and specialized plant processing equipment.
Food safe materials and lubricants are used for all vertical farming conveyor systems. Ultimation has experience with the various different requirements and the available food-safe conveyor lubricants, oils and greases that can safely be used in these environments. Vertical farms can help reduce “food miles” which is the distance that food items travel from the point of production to the table. High volume indoor farms located near to major consumption areas have the potential to reduce CO2 emissions from transport as well as deliver fresher and better tasting products.
Interested in vertical farming technology and vertical farming equipment? Contact Ultimation today at [email protected] or call us on +1-586-771-1881 to discuss your requirements.
If you’d like general help learning about conveyors, which types to use and how to specify them? This step by step guide will help.