Vertical farming is extremely popular due to its efficiency and year-round crop production. In fact, indoor vertical farming is the future for better yields and superior quality yields.
Although commercial operators developed urban vertical farming, DIY vertical farming has taken off. With the right equipment and farm design, you, too, can start your own vertical farm at home.
That’s why we have compiled this guide on how to start a vertical farm at home.
The Benefits of Indoor Vertical Farming
Why is a vertical farming design superior to conventional methods of growing marijuana?
The answer is all in vertical space and carefully controlled indoor climates. Urban vertical farming allows for year-round crop harvests rather than purchasing land and relying on seasonal cycles.
The major benefits of building a vertical farm include:
- Year-Round Harvests – Since you have complete control over the climate with vertical farming lighting, the weather will not impact your crops.
- More Efficient Space Usage – Vertical farming utilizes space more efficiently. Traditional farms rely on horizontal space, whereas vertical farms take advantage of horizontal and vertical space for more quantity.
- Sustainability – Vertical farms improve biodiversity and use fewer fossil fuel resources, particularly when paired with solar paneling.
- Fewer Resources – Your crop isn’t exposed to the open air; therefore, there’s no need for pesticides. Plus, many vertical farms use hydroponics to reduce water usage.
- Reduced Overheads – Lower your transportation costs by growing closer to where your customers live. Plus, benefit from considerably lower labor costs by automating most of your systems with advanced technology from Scynce LED.
Simply put, DIY vertical farming makes sense business-wise by increasing your profitability and reducing your overheads. It also has the advantage of being a better option for the environment.
While some strains benefit more from natural light, these are firmly in the minority. Make sure you choose the right strains for vertical farming.
DIY Vertical Farming: What You Need to Get Started
The beauty of any form of vertical gardening is you need little space. Based on the layout of your home or commercial space, you can use anything from a small bedroom to an unfinished basement.
All you genuinely need to start building a vertical farm is a space to control the temperature and the humidity. Plus, you must provide indoor farming lighting, water, and fertilizer.
You need several pieces of equipment to begin a basic vertical farm, such as wire rack shelving units, LED lights, a hydroponics system, and means to prevent cross-contamination from the outside.
You also need to take the time to figure out how to build a vertical farm that fits within your budget. Calculating your costs ahead of time will prevent significant problems later.
These are the basics, but there’s more to it than buying some equipment and plugging it all in.
How to Start a Vertical Farm: A Step-by-Step Guide
Indoor vertical farming can be complex when approaching it for the first time. To help you get started, we’ve compiled a step-by-step guide that addresses every aspect of creating your farm.
Take note; the best yields come from experience. The goal is to play around with what works for you and find the setup that yields the highest quality marijuana in your home or business.
Step One – Getting the Climate Right
The keystone of successful urban vertical farming is total control over the growing climate. There are two aspects to focus on: temperature and humidity. These environmental factors influence whether you have a successful harvest.
Firstly, make sure your growing space is completely isolated from the outdoor environment. If there are any cracks in the windows or walls, these must be patched up before planting your first seeds.
Due to the incredible genetic diversity of the marijuana plant, there are no hard and fast rules regarding the ideal temperature/humidity. Your settings need to match both the plant and its growth stage.
For example, when marijuana reaches the vegetative stage, experienced growers recommend a temperature of 80 F with a relative humidity of 70%.
Contrast these settings to plants that reach the flowering stage, whereby the ideal temperature ranges from 70 F to 80 F, with a relative humidity of 40-60%.
Likewise, these are only rough indications of the correct settings. There will be variations based on the performance of your crop and the strain grown.
Step Two – Structure
When talking structure, this doesn’t pertain to the structures used in vertical farming but the construction of your grow room. The perfect vertical farming design requires a system that properly insulates your crops from the outside world.
The marijuana plant is susceptible to changes in the air, and the wrong structure may prevent consistent quality in your crop.
Many people create an additional room within a building by using freezer panels to provide a cost-effective solution to sound insulation.
Your structure depends on your budget and the layout of the building you’ll be growing in, so investigate the different options open to you.
Step Three – Vertical Farming Lighting
When farming cannabis vertically, invest in an automated LED lighting system. Your light levels must match the profiles of your cannabis strain to give them what they need. From targeted pink spectrums to broad white light and everything in between, lighting has a significant influence on the success or failure of your crop.
Generalists seeking to meet industry standards may opt for simple broad-spectrum LED indoor farming lighting, whereas craft growers looking to perfect their marijuana harvests need something different.
Fine spectrum control via your vertical farm LED systems gives you full command over every crop. State-of-the-art LED lighting systems, such as The Raging Kush 2.0 and Dragon Alpha offer a level of control previously thought impossible.
Every strain has its own unique lighting profile, and being able to match this throughout each stage in the growing cycle automatically gives you the chance to create optimal harvests.
Step Four – Vertical Farming Design
Spacing is a massive part of your overall design. Urban vertical farming requires a spacing strategy that ensures each plant receives an optimal amount of light while maximizing efficient space usage.
Each crop has a different spacing and light recipe. Manual spacing and spacing robots are both choices for your facility.
Regarding your design, there are two major categories of design you may want to consider when working out how to start a vertical farm:
- True Vertical – In true vertical farming, plants often grow out of the sides of shelves, with fertilizer and water raining down from above.
- Stacked Vertical – In a stacked vertical farming layout, farmers position grow trays above each other. This is the better option for short, stubby cannabis strains to maximize space.
Just about any cannabis strain suits the vertical farming setup. The ideal strains are short, stubby, with heavy buds. Strains with fewer leaves can reduce manual defoliation time.
Experienced growers may decide to try their hand at growing strains with stems and more leaves.
Step Five – Water
Water is the lifeblood that keeps your plants healthy. DIY vertical farming uses 90% less water than conventional farming techniques, thus making it a popular option for home grow rooms.
Hydroponics systems are the gold standard of modern vertical farming systems. They ensure that plants receive only water they need when they need it.
With interest in hydroponics systems growing, these systems have never been more affordable.
Step Six – Consider Your Costs
Costs vary widely based on the equipment you decide to use. There’s no need to worry about facility rental costs for home growers. The latest equipment often runs into thousands of dollars, particularly for automated systems.
The equipment you buy depends on your initial budget. It also depends on what you want to accomplish. Not every vertical farmer wants to create a sprawling commercial operation.
Once you have taken your initial startup costs into account, it’s time to focus on the running costs.
On average, a small vertical farm costs $3.45 per square foot of energy, whereas larger farms will spend an average of $8.02 per square foot. Take note; a small vertical farm is anything under 10,000 square feet.
Your energy expenses also depend on the efficiency of your bulbs. It’s well worth investing in more efficient bulbs, as they will pay off in the long run.
You may also need to factor in employee costs with a larger farm, but many experienced growers avoid outside help by investing in automated systems.
Whether you need employees or not depends on your level of experience and how hands-on you want to be with your growing operation.
Can You Grow Cannabis Profitably?
Vertical farming can be a profitable venture, including for micro-farms. However, creating a profitable enterprise depends on customer demand and the crop’s market value.
Your harvests must be cost-effective. Faster-growing cannabis strains with a high market value will lead to the highest level of profitability. The market value is highly dependent on location, so take the time to research the local and regional markets before deciding what you want to grow.
Like any business, you must conduct in-depth market research and viability studies before launching a commercial cannabis operation.
Urban vertical farming is the present and the future. The success of your venture largely depends on the equipment. The best equipment delivers higher yields and better quality crops, essential for both branding and efficiency.
Begin your vertical farm right with cutting-edge equipment from Scynce LED. Our marijuana grow lights, application, and control solutions are built with the science of cannabis in mind.To learn more about the DIY vertical farming solutions of the future, contact Scynce LED now.