How To Start a Vertical Farm

How To Start a Vertical Farm
Building a hydroponic vertical farm lets you bring fresh produce to your local area, year-round, no matter the climate. These days, it’s easier than ever to grow greens, berries, or vegetables in an indoor environment. Vertical farming technology providers like iFarm can help you through the whole process, so you don’t need an agricultural education or be an experienced farmer to run a successful vertical farm.

This article will take you step by step through the process of launching an indoor vertical farm, from choosing a location, to designing and building a farm, to cost calculations and software support.

What is a vertical farm?

Vertical farming is an industrial approach to cultivating edible plants indoors based on the
latest agrotechnical methods. By using vertical space, farms can be located in towns and cities,
and provide growing populations with fresh vegetables, berries, greens and herbs all year round.
Vertical farms ensure an efficient use of space and land, do not produce carbon dioxide and
do not require the use of pesticides, since the plants are grown in a completely controlled environment. Additionally, vertical farming requires 95% less water than traditional agriculture and conventional greenhouses.

1. Choose a site for vertical farm

The site of an urban farm facility has to meet the following requirements: it must be connected to a running water supply, a sewage system and electricity. The estimated available power needed for 1 m² of growing area is 0,1 to 0,4 kW depending on farm size and crop type. The floor concrete slab is to support the weight of a structure that consists of racks, pallets, pipes, tanks, lamps and other equipment. The recommended floor loading capacity is 800 kg/ sq.m. The walls must have an effective waterproof layer inside, or such a layer should be provided. The thermal insulation of the growing chamber should be provided by the sandwich panels which are normally used for cooling chambers.
Good options for the automated vertical farm placement are: the basement of a multi-story building; a former supermarket; underground parking; the territory of an old factory, warehouse, hangar, or shopping center. The recommended height of the growing area is in the range from 5 to 6.5 m.

2. Create a vertical farm project model

First, find detailed information on all the fixed input costs: rent, water, and electricity. Then comes time to create a model of the facility.
A detailed model is made, showing the arrangement of racks and ventilation, drainage and sewerage, a fire exit, and power supply. At this point, architecture and construction solutions are planned. This involves preparing a list of construction and engineering equipment, an estimate, a financial model, and a project timeline broken down into construction stages. You can estimate the potential profitability of building a vertical farm in your area by yourself with the iFarm’s Calculator Tool.
iFarm can help to take you through each stage in the process, from determining input costs to a full model and timeline. The cost of design works for the automated vertical farm is 50 € for 1 m² of farm floor area.

3. Complete construction of the vertical farm

You can hire contractors yourself, or your technology provider can connect you to builders in your area. If you decide to install the equipment yourself, detailed instructions are available. You can also take advantage of "installation supervision", or turnkey services from an experienced technology provider like iFarm. Such services help you through the final phases of testing various technology units and ultimately launching the farm. Whereas a smaller farm of 100 m² can be set up and launched in 3−5 weeks, the process may take 3−4 months for a 1000+ m² farm, depending on the manpower and expertise involved in the construction process.
construction of the vertical farm

4. Integrate vertical farm management software

Today’s vertical farms are powered by software, so one of the final steps before launching the farm is integrating with a software platform that will help you monitor and control your growing process. An example of this would be iFarm’ Growtune software platform. Here are some available software features that make it easy for anyone to run a vertical farm:

  • Automatically plan and schedule plantings, maximizing production efficiency
  • Detailed instructions (checklists) for plant care; daily list of tasks for staff
  • 24/7 remote control over the farm microclimate and production from you device 
  • Calculations to help you to get a predicted yield at a desired time
  • Significant reduction in farm staff workload
vertical farm management software

5. Plant the first seeds and teach your staff vertical farming techniques

Now that your farm is designed, built, verified, and cost-calculated you can plant your first seeds! Once the seeds are planted, you’ll probably need to train a staff to run your vertical farm. Of course, you can always rely on the help of a full-service farm tech provider like iFarm to help you with buying the seeds, doing the first planting, and training your staff.
The farm starts working!
vertical farm harvesting process

6. Set up deliveries of consumable items for your indoor farm

Consumable items for a vertical farm include: substrate, seeds, pots, packaging, fertilizers, etc, and others. The costs of an item like fertilizer depends on the producer and the type of fertilizer you choose. Full-service technology providers like iFarm can supply these items to you directly, with the purchasing process integrated via the software platform.

How long does it take to start
a vertical farm?

Here’s a sample timeline to launch a farm with total floor area 500 m²

iFarm builds ready-to-use vertical farms around the world, with many successful urban farm businesses up and running in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Norway, Sweden, Finland and other countries.


Are you interested in setting up a vertical farm, but don’t know how to start?