Vertical Farming Energy Consumption

Vertical Farming Energy Consumption

The concept of vertical farming is simple to grasp: instead of growing plants horizontally on the land, you grow them vertically indoors. This allows you to create optimal growing conditions and maximize the space available.

With soilless growth, universal growing conditions and minimal water consumption, vertical farming is a sustainable and eco-friendly option too. What is more — it makes urban farming a reality and enables you to start your own farm in a densely-populated town or city.

In this article, iFarm gives you the lowdown on the equipment you will need to get started, as well as the information about how to reduce energy costs and, even more importantly, the carbon footprint of your farming business.

Indoor vertical farm facility requirements

A vertical farm can be set up in any indoor environment: from warehouses to stockrooms and even residential garages. In all of them, it is possible to create the perfect conditions for plant growth.
Cornfield flooding from heavy rain and storms in the Midwest

Equipment for a vertical farming facility.

Source: iFarm.

Once you have decided where your vertical farm is going to be situated, you will need to prepare the building. Installing high-quality thermal insulation helps to maintain a constant temperature, which ensures optimal growth, minimizes energy usage and reduces operating costs.

The temperature on a vertical farm should be around 20−22°C. When this temperature is maintained steadily, you will only need to make minimal adjustments using equipment, such as an automated climate system. This means you will use less energy, become more sustainable and incur fewer costs.
minimise electricity consumption for vertical farm

Leafy greens grown indoors with iFarm technologies.

Source: iFarm.

What equipment do you need for vertical farm?

Before we can assess how much electricity your vertical farm will use, it is important to identify what type of equipment you’ll need.

The list of equipment required will depend on the size of your operations but every vertical farm needs:

  • LED lamps to create optimal growing conditions for crops
  • Air conditioning system to circulate and cool the air
  • Osmotic system to purify water
  • Fertigation unit to prepare a nutrient-rich solution for plants
  • Pumps to deliver fertilizers to plants
Equipment for Vertical Farm

Vertical farming equipment.

Source: iFarm.

  • Air humidifiers to maintain appropriate humidity levels.
Air humidifiers are required during the first few months of operation. Once plants are mature, they are able to maintain appropriate humidity levels naturally, and air humidifiers are no longer needed.
  • Air dryers are used on larger farms where mature plants process more water.
Air dryers maintain the humidity level and are a great way to save water.
dehumidifiers for Vertical Farm

Climate control system for vertical farming.

Source: iFarm.

  • Controllers and automation systems to maintain a stable microclimate, control mixing solutions and facilitate plant growth.
  • Lamps to illuminate the farm and to navigate the workspace.
  • Computers and Internet to manage the farm remotely with a farm management software such as iFarm Growtune.
  • Webcams to monitor plants easily and detect growth deviations or diseases using computer vision technology.
Once you have got everything setup, you will find that LED lamps (55%), air conditioners (30%) and dehumidifiers (10%) account for 95% of electricity usage, while the remaining devices use less than 5%.

Now you know exactly what electrical equipment you will be using, we will show you just how much electricity it will take to grow your crops.

Energy consumption in vertical farming

The amount of electricity your vertical farm uses will depend on exactly which crops you choose to grow. We have calculated how much electricity it takes to grow light-loving Romaine lettuce, shade-loving rocket and garden strawberries to give you an example of energy usage on vertical farms.

The following data shows just how much electricity you will use in a 1000-square-meters-planting area with iFarm technologies. On average, one square meter accounts for approximately 16 hours of lighting.

Electricity amount to grow Rocket or Romaine Lettuce with vertical farming technology

Swipe to the left to see the whole table
Electricity amount to grow Romaine Lettuce with vertical farming technology

Lettuce grown on a vertical farm

Source: iFarm.

Electricity amount to grow Strawberries with vertical farming technology

Swipe to the left to see the whole table
Electricity amount to grow Strawberries with vertical farming technology

Strawberries grown on a vertical farm.

Source: iFarm.

The amount of electricity used per square meter is almost the same for any size of vertical farm. A specific number of LED lamps are used per square meter, so the larger your farm is, the more lamps you will need. This ensures your production is scalable and enables you to accurately forecast your operating costs.

How to reduce energy consumption in vertical farming

Reducing energy consumption makes your vertical farm more environmentally friendly and has the added bonus of reducing your operating costs. Apart from incorporating highly precise farm management systems, there are some other ways to cut down on energy consumption and costs, and make the overall farm operations more sustainable.

Free cooling and lighting at night

If the temperature in your area is low enough, you can use free cooling to maintain an appropriate climate on your vertical farm. Ideally, it might be used at night, as the temperatures are typically lower at night than during the day.

Instead of using electrical equipment, such as a compressor, you can use low external temperatures to chill water. This water can then be used in your air conditioning system to maintain an appropriate temperature within the farm. As you will be less reliant on electricity to maintain it, you will use less energy.

If you grow Romaine lettuce, for example, free cooling can help you to reduce energy consumption from 76.55 kWh to 57.35 kWh per month per square meter. Similarly, free cooling will reduce energy usage from 124.81 kWh to 91.7 kWh per square meter when growing strawberries.
The electricity rates are normally lower at night. Thus, by using lamps at night, instead of during the day, you can substantially bring down your costs. Moreover, you lower your energy consumption as you are using free cooling at night, which helps you save too.

Renewable energy sources for indoor farming

Indoor farming faces a significant obstacle in the form of energy consumption necessary to operate climate systems and lighting. However, this challenge can be addressed by utilizing renewable energy sources.

Renewable energy is generated from natural sources that are continuously replenished at a faster rate than they are consumed. For example, sources such as sunlight and wind are abundant and readily accessible. Solar power can be an excellent way to reduce energy usage, both in business and residential environments. Installing solar panels on the roof of your vertical farm allows you to access renewable energy to power your vertical farming operations.

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has recently released its Renewable Capacity Statistics 2023 report. It shows that by the end of 2022, global renewable energy capacity amounted to 3372 GW, growing the stock of renewable power by a record 9.6%.

Renewable energy accounted for an impressive 83% of all power capacity added last year, according to experts. This marks a continued decline in the production of fossil-fueled power, despite prevailing global uncertainties.

In terms of global renewable generation capacity, hydropower still holds the largest share at 1250 GW. However, new generating capacity was dominated by solar and wind, contributing 90% of all new renewable capacity in 2022. Solar capacity saw the most significant increase at 22%, followed by wind energy at 9%.

The report shows that many countries have increased their renewable capacity in 2022, with significant growth concentrated in the USA, China, and European countries. Notably, the Middle East experienced its highest rise in renewables on record at 12.8%.

Precise agriculture technologies

By using iFarm Growtune software and iFarm StackGrow hardware, you can significantly reduce the amount of energy used, while enhancing production quality and maximising productivity.
Automation technologies for vertical farming iFarm

iFarm StackGrow technology for vertical farming.

Source: iFarm.

iFarm is committed to advancing the technology to make vertical farming even more energy efficient. Depending on the crops grown, new developments could reduce energy consumption by 20−50%.

With the potential to conserve water, shorten supply chains, and reduce waste, vertical farms are revolutionizing food production. Now it is a great time to get involved! Whether you are looking for a lucrative business opportunity, a viable way to shorten your supply chain or you simply want to grow your own produce, vertical farming could be the ideal solution.

To learn more about sustainable technologies in vertical farming, get in touch with iFarm