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“Vertical farming sensors provide farmers with data that enables them to track and optimize crops in response to changing environmental circumstances.

The global vertical farming market has gained significant traction over the past few years thanks to its ability to grow more produce per area than traditional greenhouses and farming methods. Driven by the demands of a growing population and the rising popularity of organic food, the vertical farming market is predicted to increase to $US 15.7 billion by 2025.

A dynamic and demanding field, vertical farming’s rising popularity has been met with an equal increase in innovation and the development of intelligent solutions that can use data and insights to improve production and growth conditions. Enter sensors and data. Two solutions so perfectly suited that their marriage is one that’s designed to give vertical farmers the insights, control, and precision they need to transform their output and capabilities.

What data do you need to consider for your vertical farm?

There are multiple data touchpoints that can hugely benefit the vertical farmer, and each one can be optimised and correlated according to your unique needs. Sensors allow for you to really dig deep into your environment so you can make informed decisions and can be used to assess two very specific zones – the air zone and the root zone.

Sensors in the Air Zone

The air zone is broken down across several sub-categories that include light, temperature, humidity, air velocity, and carbon dioxide (CO2). Understanding the impact of these factors on the output of a farm, and finding ways of optimising them to ensure maximum productivity and yield, is essential. You need to know how to finely tune each element so that your crops are provided with optimum conditions throughout the year.

Sensors offer in-depth insight into every one of these areas. CO2 sensors provide always-on insights and data into vertical farming conditions, especially if integrated with other systems to ensure that the data is properly collated, and are considered an essential part of any vertical farming setup. Then there are sensors that can be used to help you monitor and control key areas within your environment such as light, temperature, humidity and oxygen.

Sensors in the Root Zone

The root zone comprises oxygen, root zone moisture and temperature, and nutrients. Here, insights help vertical farmers to adjust the moisture levels and to optimise nutrient and oxygen values to achieve maximum yields. The data collected by sensors within the root zone allows for farmers to refine farming conditions down to the finest detail – from the amount of nutrients being delivered to the temperature of the plant to data on changing the spectrum of light currently seen by the plants.

Sensors placed within the vertical farming environment offer farmers the ability to monitor every stage and aspect of plant growth. It’s a level of detail that previously was impossible to imagine, but technology and consistent innovation have made allowed for the development of sensors that are designed specifically for these environments.

However, it’s important to note that the data collated from sensors throughout the air zone and root zone cannot be looked at in isolation. It must be analysed in context and holistically to ensure that you get a complete picture of your environment. Looking at just the quality of the air or the nutrients or the temperature of the space won’t offer the granular level of insight you need. A complete picture is painted only when you have every fact at your fingertips.

Why use sensors to capture data in vertical farms?

The real question here is – what are the measurable benefits of investing in sensors in the first place?

01: First, it’s the ability to benchmark all that data that you’ve just gathered across every zone and touchpoint. If you can benchmark your performance, you can immediately see which conditions have resulted in impressive yield versus those that have not, and make decisions based on hard facts.

02: Second, you can use the sensor data to look at the phenotype of the plants. This will vary for different types of plants, so you can use the sensor data to match against the plants to optimise growing conditions. This has the added benefit of providing you with a complete view of how your plants are performing at different stages of growth – you can then use the data to optimise the environment at each stage so you can effectively increase both yield and plant health.

03: Third, access to rich data and insights means reduced risks. You can potentially predict potential issues and prevent them from happening based on legacy data and in-depth analyses. This just adds another layer of value to how sensor data can improve decision making and profits over the long-term.

04: Fourth, data gives you the ability to test environmental factors and drive consistent improvements throughout your vertical farming spaces. Because no two environments are the same, sensors help you to determine precisely what’s right for your environment, and how to measurably achieve the right metrics within those environments.

05: Fifth, you can automate processes and make informed decisions because you have access to more data. This, plus constant repetition, allows you to develop robust benchmarking models and use machine learning capabilities to constantly adapt and refine your environments on demand. It adds immense flexibility to your farming that you can use to your advantage.

In collaboration with academic experts from Nottingham Trent University, Light Science Technologies has developed an all-in-one indoor farm sensor that’s capable of monitoring key areas across your environment, including light, water, air, temperature, humidity, oxygen, root zone moisture and nutrient levels. The sensor is designed to help you ensure optimal plant productivity
and yield. From benchmarking to superior decision making to rich environmental control, we can help you take your vertical farm to the next level – the hidden one.