iFarm StackGrow Automated Vertical Farm Systems Go To Market With Game-Changing Efficiency

The new generation of vertical farms looks different. Walking into an iFarm facility with the latest StackGrow automation feels like something from an episode of Star Trek, with LED-lit racks that are like sophisticated conveyor belts, slowly shifting and spacing the trays as the green shoots grow into succulent greens. But perhaps the coolest tech is behind the scenes: the AI-driven software that optimizes everything, leading to game-changing improvements in yield and resource savings. This technology can increase a standard vertical farm’s production by 50% per square meter of space, reduce electricity costs by up to 30%, and drop labor costs by 12%.

Agri-tech investment is growing by leaps and bounds, and many farmers are familiar with some level of software-enabled automation in greenhouses and indoor farms. But iFarm’s StackGrow technology is on the cutting edge of farm tech which is now approaching total automation. StackGrow is essentially an IT-driven solution with a hardware front end made up of fully automated conveyors, lights, irrigation and climate systems, as well as fresh, pesticide-free greens. On the backend is iFarm’s software platform, Growtune. In addition to the actual automation software, they have spent years collecting big datasets that generate precisely calibrated ‘growth recipes’ with the help of machine learning.
This high-tech mix of automated elevators and AI-driven irrigation solves very down-to-earth problems for farmers around the world. Real estate, labor costs, energy costs, and water scarcity are real concerns. Many governments are looking to ensure a local supply chain for fresh food for their populations. Qatar, for example, is pushing towards a goal of 70% locally grown vegetables by 2023 as part of its National Food security Strategy. While the current standard of vertical farming equipment helps with some of these issues, StackGrow-enabled farms offer a new level of value proposition that might take adoption of vertical farms into exponential territory.
StackGrow systems use up to 30% less energy than the previous generation of vertical farms, despite the fact that manual labor is largely replaced by machines. With current turmoil in the energy sector, this may be a substantive pain point or barrier to entry for many farm operators. When combined with the 12% reduction of labor costs, that could be a significant chunk of change and tip the ledger towards greater profitability. Part of the energy savings comes from the StackGrow racks being able to space the trays automatically, creating optimal crop density throughout the process. This allows planting of 1.5 times more pots per lighted area.

Labor makes up over 50% of the price of veggies, and this is even more relevant to countries with low labor availability. Plus, StackGrow has the added bonus of removing most manual labor from the process, making jobs at such farms more appealing. The GrowTune online interface automates all the key processes involved in vertical farming: climate, lightning, nutrition, troubleshooting, and optimization. It also helps with planning, monitors soil nutrients, sends notifications for harvest, and even provides video surveillance for security.
Perhaps the most impressive number to look at is the whopping 50% increase in yield per square meter of floorspace produced by StackGrow vs. traditional rack systems. Whatever the costs of labor and energy in your country, real estate prices are no joke.
“Getting 1.5X the crop yield from a given facility drastically changes the economics of farming greens indoors, lowering the barrier to entry for businesses, and expanding the selection of financially feasible crops. While the initial set-up cost of an automated farm is slightly higher than a manual one, the pay-back period to recoup this investment is very low, often in the 4-5 year range. In some cases we are looking at the extra investment on automation paying itself back already in the first year of operation.”

Timo Koljonen
iFarm, VP Sales
The barrier to entry is further lowered by the multifaceted support that the iFarm ecosystem provides. In addition to designing and setting up the farm itself, iFarm offers customized consumables such as seeds and plant nutrition, along with grow recipes and continuous tech support. Increasing economies of scale, ever-improving data analytics, and new technologies coming down the pipeline means that the already impressive performance of StackGrow and GrowTune products will only continue to provide greater tangible benefits for farmers around the world.

After intense testing, the StackGrow technology is now going to market, with several commercial projects already being built or designed. Some already have recurring contracts in place for their herbs and greens. iFarm invites all those interested in getting in the action or just learning more about StackGrow to get in touch with the team.
20.06.2022

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