Vertical farming is a weather and climate-proof type of agriculture where all parameters affecting plants’ growth can be monitored and controlled. It represents a possible solution to provide food for a growing population using fewer resources. However, research is still necessary to make this type of production affordable on an industrial scale. In fact, the price for the final consumer is not competitive with produce coming from traditional agriculture. This is due to high operational cost, mainly connected to electricity for artificial lighting. More research in this field is necessary to find solutions to reduce energy consumption and make this type of production viable.
The project Vertigrow is meant to work towards this goal and establish expertise in indoor controlled vertical farming and controlled environment agriculture within Sintef Digital.
The projects lasted two years and involved two major goals.
1. Set up of a laboratory for experiments in controlled vertical farming.
The laboratory is completely autonomous and built with industry-standard equipment. It includes a dashboard and data collection to facilitate its use.
The system included automatic ebb and flow hydroponic irrigation with nutrients and pH control.
The environment parameters such as air temperature, humidity, ventilation and light can be monitored and controlled.
2. Experiments of growth with different light cycles to minimize energy costs connected to artificial lighting
In this work, growth trials of iceberg salad are run under different light cycles.
The light cycle is defined based on the day-ahead energy spot price from NordPool. The plants receive light with varying frequencies based on the market price for energy.
Initial results look promising in terms of yield and energy cost reduction.