Read the updated version of this post here: https://zipgrow.com/6-things-to-consider-when-starting-a-vertical-farm/
Time to Start a Vertical Farm?
When you’re planning a new farm business, you want to consider your production methods and practices from the very start.
Production practices shape your business plan, farm construction, and everyday operations for years to come, so planning wisely in this area is important.
“Easier said than done,” you say?
You’re right; planning can be a daunting task. Let’s break it down.
What production inputs should you be thinking about in the planning phase?
Here are 6 things to consider when starting a vertical farm…
(Keep in mind: these items are specific to your plant growing system. Many other inputs to production will increase your farm’s costs.)
1) ZipGrow Towers
At this point, you’ve probably done plenty of research on why ZipGrow towers will be the best hydroponic production method for your farm.
ZipGrow towers have features to support every level of your production.
When planning, think about how will you take advantage of their features. Why is this important to your farm management?
2) Pest Management
Your pest management strategy starts on day one. A greenhouse or warehouse can never exclude 100% of pests.
Decide how you’ll combat pests in your greenhouse. Will you use organic or conventional controls? While specific controls will evolve based on your pests and damage level, consider your pest management in the context of end production goals now.
At Bright Agrotech’s 2,000 square foot greenhouse, it costs $3.00 – $4.00 per application using a sprayer, or $0.50 – $0.75 if using a fogger.
Want to learn more about IPM, Pest Control, and Disease Control in a ZipGrow production system?
Check out our Pest and Disease Control Packet!
3) Nutrients or Fish
Will you be producing hydroponically or aquaponically?
Depending on which you choose, you’ll need fertilizer or fish as a production input.
Deciding whether a hydroponic or aquaponic system will make most sense for your business comes down to your markets.
Regardless, check out our recommended products list for our picks on what to use.
This one is easy. Since ZipGrow towers are designed for Live Sales, harvesting is a minimal part of the production process.
Just because harvesting isn’t a major part of production doesn’t mean it should be ignored in the planning phase. In fact, this makes it even more important to include as you write a business plan, design your farm structure, and determine your logistic needs.
Reduced harvest costs are a large competitive advantage for your farm. And, potential investors will want to hear about this.
Emphasize the advantages of using Live Sales as a part of your production method.
5) Lighting Requirements
Unless you live very close the equator, supplemental lighting should always be considered for maximum production. Even the warmest greenhouse will see production decreases during winter as light quality decreases.
Light has an important and positive affect on plant growth.
Will you be able to maintain year-round production without artificial light?
Warehouses absolutely need supplemental light, and it’s recommended for greenhouses, too.
Greenhouses without supplemental light will need to plan for higher late-fall production in order to build up a “bank” of produce for the winter months.
(While plants won’t grow quickly during winter, the plants will easily stay alive in the towers and a warm greenhouse.)
6) Heating or Cooling
It’s unlikely that your greenhouse or warehouse will be able to maintain a constant temperature year-round without either heating or cooling.
There are a variety of options out there (which we discuss in the Business Planning Guide).
While heating or cooling won’t have as large an effect on how your products are marketed, it will have a major impact on your business’ production, financial, and construction plans.
As you get growing, you’ll discover many more small – but influential – pieces in your production methods.
However, these are the major considerations you’ll want to consider while planning and designing your farm.
Make sure you minimize costs wherever possible and make your farm easy for all laborers to use – yourself included.