In recent years, vertical farming has taken the world by storm. It would seem that vertical farming represents the future of agriculture and is set to change the way we approach food production in general. Simply put, vertical farming (which mostly uses hydroponics but can also use aeroponics or aquaponics) uses a vertical system of growing plants.
Vertical farming racks are mainly used in hydroponics, where the plants are grown in trays positioned in layers (or stacks). This method is beneficial for growing and producing more vegetables, herbs, or flowers in a limited space. Vertical farming racks can be customized to fit most areas.
The systems employed allow plants to grow on top of one another, extending vertically as high as possible. There are numerous benefits to vertical farming, the biggest of all being the saved amount of space.
What Are Grow Racks?
Grow racks are used in vertical farming to provide a place for the plants to grow. Vertical farming racks are available in various forms, varying from the exceptionally simple DIY versions to the highly complex, mass-produced grow racks with integrated lighting systems and carefully controlled internal environments.
The majority of vertical farming racks are relatively simple systems of shelving that allow plants to be stacked on top of one another. These stacked systems of growing space can be as short as a person’s eye line or as high as the roof of a warehouse in a commercial setting.
The basic principle remains the same, however. Most vertical farming racks, whether in a home environment or a commercial setting, employ hydroponics. On a basic level, the plants are placed in trays in a growing medium such as coconut husks, with their roots sitting in water. This water circulates underneath the plants and contains all of the nutrients required to help the plants grow strong and healthy.
Vertical farming racks generally negate the use of soil to grow the plants, which has many benefits, including a lower likelihood of pests, diseases, and weeds.
The water, in most cases, is recycled as far as possible, making this growing method exceptionally sustainable from a water-consumption point of view.
Aeroponics systems employ a slightly different methodology, but this will be discussed later in this article.
Most vertical farming racks feature integrated lighting that mimics the sunlight ordinarily received by plants. This allows plants in vertical farming grow racks to be grown indoors in completely controlled environments without direct access to the sun.
This also means that plants are not subjected to damage from exposure to the sun. They can be given precisely the amount of light needed to ensure optimal growth.
Whether on the simple end of the scale or the highly sophisticated types, grow racks are designed to allow the right height between levels to give plants sufficient space to grow while simultaneously ensuring that vertical space is maximized. This ensures that the highest number of plants can be grown in the smallest amount of space without compromising the growth and overall quality of the crops in question.
What Are The Different Types Of Vertical Farming Racks?
As the interest in vertical farming has increased and the industry has grown substantially, so has the range and availability of vertical farming equipment, systems, and growing racks. The basic principle, however, remains the same.
There are DIY versions of vertical farming racks that make use of bottles. There are simple options available that can be hung up on your windowsill. There are home versions of vertical farms built from PVC piping, and there are simple wire rack shelving units. Alternatively, in places like Kenya, vertical farmers make use of sacks filled with soil.
Some models of vertical farming racks employ the use of soil. Still, the whole vertical farming industry leans more toward hydroponic farming methods for its myriad benefits.
Your standard commercially produced vertical farm rack consists of growing trays stacked vertically on top of each other, with sufficient space between each layer to ensure the plants can grow to their optimal height. Each stacked layer features slots for multiple plants to be placed in their growing medium, usually coconut husks.
The coconut husks provide no nutrients to the plants but simply connect the plant to the roots, holding the entire element together in one piece. The roots can hang down into the circulating water below. This water contains all the nutrients needed for the optimal growth of the plants.
Most of these vertical farming racks feature built-in lighting that provides all of the lighting needed to allow the plants to grow.
Skygreens, a company based in Singapore, patented a type of growing rack that features rotating vertical racks. This system employs waterwheels that power a series of pulleys. These pulleys rotate the troughs up and around the growing towers, allowing each trough, in turn, to pass through a base of circulating water.
The plants in this type of system are not subjected to any stress from the sun thanks to the sophisticated grow lights, and they can get the exact amount of nutrients and water they need. The water in these systems is recycled and filtered before being used again to circulate through the plants.
True Garden is another company that has had enormous success in the vertical farming industry. They have developed a sophisticated stacking vertical farming tower garden that employs aeroponics instead of hydroponics. This system uses a significantly lower amount of water compared to hydroponics. It has proven to produce exceptionally healthy and tasty plants sustainably.
This stackable system – that can begin as a simple 5-foot option for the home or be stacked as high as the roof of a warehouse in a commercial setting – presents one of the best ways to grow crops in a vertical fashion.
Seeds are placed in pods of coconut husks until they have grown into seedlings sufficiently large to be placed in the tower garden. A pump is activated within the tower according to a specific watering program. The necessary water and nutrients are pumped to the top of the tower.
The water then flows down through the center of the tower, providing all the nutrients and water needed by the plants. Because the roots benefit from more oxygen exposure, the plants benefit from accelerated growth.
You can check out this video from Pipp Horticulture for an example of their high-tech grow racks in action in a cannabis farm.
Benefits Of Vertical Farming
Vertical farming has a host of benefits and can be seen as the future of agriculture in a society growing rapidly, with arable land becoming less available by the year. Vertical farming saves a huge amount of water compared to conventional farming. Naturally, vertical farming racks also save on the land required to produce the crops.
Because soil is generally not used and the plants are grown in a controlled environment, there is often no need for pesticides. Vertical farming brings farming closer to urban environments where the crops are needed, reducing the costs and environmental damage caused by transporting produce across the country.
Vertical farming racks are growing in terms of the sophisticated technology available. They are becoming more and more efficient as time goes by. Whether you opt for a simple DIY version of a vertical farm or aim to create a commercial-scale operation with a higher yield, there are countless options available to you.