Airflow is a critical aspect of vertical farming, as it directly affects the health and growth of the crops grown. In vertical farms, plants are grown in stacked layers, which increases the occurrence of microclimates. A microclimate is a space in a cultivation area that differs from the desired set points of temperature, relative humidity, and surrounding area.
The air inside the vertical farm must be appropriately circulated to maintain the ideal growing conditions for each layer. When adequate cooling and dehumidification capacity exists in the growing environment, homogenization of the environment is often lacking. By carefully controlling the airflow, the vertical farm’s temperature, humidity, and carbon dioxide levels can be optimized to ensure optimal growth conditions for the crops.
One of the key challenges in maintaining proper airflow in a vertical farm is ensuring that the air is evenly distributed throughout the entire facility. This is particularly important in large-scale vertical farms where the number of layers can be substantial. In these cases, the air circulation system must be designed and installed to ensure the even distribution of air throughout the entire farm.
To date, vertical farms have utilized existing solutions such as oscillating fans and greenhouse fans in an attempt to homogenize the grow room environment. More recently, companies specializing in mobile vertical rack solutions have introduced laminar airflow systems for layered indoor cultivation. The use of fans has proven ineffective at controlling microclimates in vertical farming scenarios, whereas the laminar airflow alternatives have proven inefficient and inconsistent. Neither fans nor laminar airflow address the need for under-canopy air distribution in controlled environment agriculture.
Using standard fans and laminar airflow solutions represents adapting existing equipment for vertical farming. Still, neither was specifically designed to address the unique requirements of a vertical farm. A purpose-built solution is required.
Dual Draft Integrated Airflow was designed to address microclimates in high-density controlled environment agriculture and vertical farming. By integrating the airflow system directly into the plant tray, Dual Draft provides over-canopy (above the plant) and under-canopy (below the plant) airflow. Utilizing fully controllable centrifugal fans allows Dual Draft to provide consistent airflow to plants. Dual Draft eliminates vertical farm microclimates and provides the necessary under-canopy airflow to stimulate plant growth.
In addition to maintaining the proper growing conditions, proper airflow in an indoor farm is also essential for maintaining the health and vigor of the crops. The flow of air is necessary to maintain plant transpiration. Transpiration causes the plant to uptake water and nutrients. A lack of transpiration results in stunted and unhealthy crops. Transpiration is controlled by the plant’s stomata, which open to release water vapor and oxygen. When the stomata close, they absorb carbon dioxide, a necessary building block of plant growth. Breaking the air barrier at the stomata, which are located on the underside of the leaf surface, is critical to increasing transpiration and CO2 uptake.
Increasing the plant vigor with under-canopy airflow and strict environmental control will naturally enhance the crop’s health and resistance to disease and pest pressure. Proper airflow reduces vectors of disease and pest pressure reducing the potential for harmful pathogens and pests. It can also help to reduce the risk of disease transmission from one crop to another. By carefully managing the airflow, growers of all crops, from cannabis to leafy greens to tomatoes, can ensure that their plants are grown in a healthy and sustainable environment, increasing yields and improving quality.
Properly managing the airflow in a vertical farm can ensure that the ideal growing conditions are maintained, improving yield, quality, consistency, and plant health. By taking the time to design and implement a comprehensive airflow management system, vertical farmers can achieve greater success and sustainability in their operations.