How iFarm Berries technology works

How iFarm Berries technology works

In this article, we’re talking about iFarm Berry vertical farms, where you can grow delicious, sweet and fragrant strawberries all year round.
The iFarm team has developed new technology for the industrial production of strawberries on automated vertical farms. iFarm Berries technology allows you to get a good harvest of delicious, locally-grown, pesticide-free berries all year round.

We’ll take a closer look at a pilot farm based in Siberia, which is producing exquisite strawberries in an extremely cold climate, and showcase how this innovative technology works.

The first industrial city farm using iFarm Berries technology is located in Novosibirsk, where the iFarm R&D department is also based. Two rooms are equipped for berry production, creating a total cultivation area of 233 m². The farm space is divided into two separate rooms to control the schedule of different strawberry yield cycles and ensure reliable harvests are available at any time of year. More than 2000 plants can be grown in each room, with 4000 plants being cultivated on the farm.
What is important for the industrial cultivation of strawberries?
iFarm AgTech developers take many different parameters into account when creating new technology for the industrial cultivation of strawberries, including yield, cost, taste (Brix level), shape and size of the berry, its shelf life and distribution of output over time.

These variables are directly dependent on the variety of strawberry being grown and the method of cultivation used. To achieve optimal plant growth and maximum yields, iFarm agronomists experimented with different varieties, growing methods and parameters.
iFarm Berries technology is based on the low-volume hydroponics growing method, using inert substrates and drip irrigation to deliver nutrients to the plants.
iFarm Berries technology is based on the low-volume hydroponics growing method, using inert substrates and drip irrigation to deliver nutrients to the plants.
Low-volume hydroponics is one of the most advantageous growing methods for strawberries. It allows the plant root system to breathe and develop healthily, while consuming all the necessary elements from the nutrient solution. Additionally, low-volume hydroponics allows you to minimise water usage and, therefore, conserves resources and increases sustainability. With healthy roots nourishing the plant's body, we get a bush that’s full of energy and full of berries!
It’s important to note that there are several options when it comes to the seedlings you use. It is possible to buy seedlings via international nurseries or grow them yourself, for example. Each approach has its pros and cons. At this city farm, cassette seedlings with a closed root system and a fixed number of embedded flower stalks (heavy tray seedlings) are used. Bumblebees pollinate the flowers, with four hives being used for two rooms in this iFarm Berries Farm.
Good yield and taste characteristics are a combination of many factors. The variety and quality of seedlings, substrate, nutrition, stable climate, pollination — everything matters. During three years of experiments, we have tried a lot! Our confirmed result is up to 2–2.4 kg of berries per planting place per year and a Brix level of more than 10 degrees.

Timofey Pavlov
iFarm Berries agronomist
The yield of strawberries is calculated ‘per bush, per cycle’. The cycle is different for each variety of strawberry. For example, a short-day (SD) variety cycle lasts three months using iFarm Berries technology to facilitate intensive cultivation, with each element of the cycle, vegetation, flowering and fruiting, lasting for one month. A day-neutral (DN) variety has a six month cycle, during which there are two or three waves of fruiting.

With SD varieties, you can get yields of up to 500–600 grams per bush per cycle, and, with DN varieties, yields of up to 1–1.5 kg per bush per cycle.

Over the course of a year, four bushes are required if SD varieties are being grown and two bushes if DN varieties are being harvested. By calculating the annual yields based on ‘planting places’, we can compare the returns regardless of whether SD or DN varieties are grown.
How we set up a vertical strawberry farm
To maximise harvests and ensure an efficient use of space, accurate calculations must be made, incorporating important variables, like the size of the room and the height of the ceilings. The number of racks, their length and their number of tiers also determines how many plants can be grown.
At the first iFarm Berries Farm, each rack consists of six tiers, which provide 317 shelves for seedling trays containing substrate. The average planting density is 13 bushes per shelf (0.72 m²) or 19 bushes per 1 m².
iFarm agronomists selected Sonsation a short-day variety with a growing cycle of 3 months. This berry is a culinary hit in Europe, known for its red colour with an orange hue and a bright shine. The berries are almost uniform in size, have a perfect conical shape, and are very sweet and juicy.
The yield per year for the Sonsation variety will be up to 2.2–2.4 kg per planting place or up to 41–45 kg per m² of cultivation area (including the length of the shelf with the necessary equipment for effective plant growth). The monthly average yield from 1 m² of cultivation area is up to 3.45–3.77 kg of berries per month, and the cost of producing 1 kg is $12.46. Over a year, the city farm in Novosibirsk will produce up to 10 tonnes of high-quality strawberries.
Strawberries, Sonsation variety, grown in iFarm lab, November 2021
Developers are consistently optimising the technology in order to increase productivity and reduce costs, particularly by introducing automating technologies. Our automated IT platform, iFarm Growtune, manages production processes on the farm and facilitates remote management. Growtune monitors compliance with climatic parameters, monitors personnel activity and collects plant data in real time. In the long term, the software will increase the efficiency of the space used, minimise energy consumption and reduce the cost of consumables.
Are you interested in purchasing iFarm Berries technology for year-round strawberry cultivation or investing in iFarm Berries farms currently under construction? Get in touch via our website and find out more!
05.11.2021
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