iFarm's new development
At iFarm engineers never stop working on making vertical farming technologies even better. One of the most recent developments has been a fertigation unit that enables to deliver nutrient solutions straight to plants.

Nutrient solution is essential for growing plants as it contains all the necessary macro- and micronutrients — nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, iron — to ensure healthy growth.
"There are hundreds of different formulations from multipurpose nutritional mixtures suitable for various crops to specialized, tailored to the needs of a certain type of plants. Both in outdoor farming or indoor vertical farms plants rooting systems are able to take up nutrients only in the form of ions that roots absorb either from the soil solution or from a mixture of water-soluble fertilizers. Thanks to the "balanced diet" we choose for plants, they grow much better in "smart" seedbeds than in natural habitats with lots of unpredictable factors and a constant lack of some nutrients," — said Natalya Smirnova, iFarm plant nutrition specialist, PhD in Biology.
One of the advantages of the iFarm fertigation system is that it allows to mix any number of nutrient solutions for a variety of crops (salads, herbs, tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries and edible flowers). This is achieved by adding six mother liquors (concentrates of nutritional ingredients thinned to get solutions with a certain number of nutrients) to the system at a time.
Pavel Zeeman, Head of the Engineering department, iFarm R&D center says that as a rule at large scale greenhouses nutrient solutions for each crop have to be mixed in a separate fertigation system. Such constructions enable to add only 2 to 3 mother liquors, which does not allow simultaneous preparation of solution for a variety of crops.
"iFarm agrochemists carefully choose solutions suitable for vertical farm crops, and in the future, it is going to be possible to mix them all in one fertigation unit. You will only need to set the appropriate plant formulas in the farm management app," — said Pavel Zeeman.

At the moment, at a large scale greenhouse in Novosibirsk, the fertigation unit prepares up to 20 nutrient solutions: a separate solution for each crop and the phase of its growth cycle. On top of that, new nutrition, that is expected to increase yields by 15-20% is being tested in production.
"In addition to the noticeable changes visible with a naked eye, the software part of the batch management system has also been significantly improved. We have implemented algorithms that allow to fine-tune solutions to the requirements of plant recipes. Each addition of a component undergoes an algorithmic check of the issued volume and the reaction of the solution to this component. These mechanisms make it possible to identify any human factor errors even before the solution enters the irrigation system," — said Aleksey Novokreschenko, Director of automation at iFarm.

The software, hardware and hydraulic systems of the updated unit are fully automated and do not require manual interference at the stages that can be analyzed with detailed trends. In case of any deviations in solutions, technical personnel will receive notifications in instant messengers.
Unlike previous models, the updated fertigation system is serviced from one side only (the first modifications required access from two sides). In addition, it is more space-efficient: it requires three times less space than before.

iFarm engineers are planning to automate the preparation of mother liquors (done manually at the moment). Once it is done, iFarm partners will be able to have the new fertigation units produced at contract manufacture.
The new fertigation unit is the intellectual property of iFarm with the utility model patent on the way.

13.05.2020
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