Vertical farms or indoor farms have the potential to achieve great efficiency in food production, promising less use of water and delivering fresh food produced efficiently from nearby geographic locations. However challenges remain – and conveyors and better vertical farming technology will likely be part of any economically viable solution. This is what the conveyor technologies company Ultimation is looking to provide to the sector.
Conveyors are sometimes used in indoor farming to optimize the density of the plants as they grow and to move the plants through automated systems to reduce labor in planting and harvesting. High efficiency LED lights have greatly enabled more efficient vertical farming technology. However replicating the efficiency of the sun remains a major challenge that indoor farming companies hope to achieve through improved control of all other plant growth variables.
Automation for vertical indoor farms
Conveyors and industrial automation equipment used in vertical farming automation systems can include many of the traditional conveyor types such as gravity roller conveyors, belt conveyors and skate wheel or flow rail conveyors. But more recently the technology used in larger systems is including motorized conveyor systems and overhead conveyors. Power and Free conveyors are the ultimate in space and volume optimization for vertical farming systems as they enable tight concentration of product in some areas while then enabling separation of the products as and when required for movement to processing areas.
Ultra high-density vertical farming systems aim to optimize plant production relative to the productive space employed for the task. Conveyors are essential in that optimization process to use all the available vertical space of a facility. Vertical farming automation can enable spacing to change as plants grow throughout a facility. Technology used can include robots as well as overhead conveyors, floor conveyors and specialized plant processing equipment.
According to Ultimation food safe materials and lubricants are used for all of their vertical farming conveyor systems. Vertical farms can help reduce “food miles” which is the distance that food items travel from the point of production to the table. High volume indoor farms located near to major consumption areas have the potential to reduce CO2 emissions from transport as well as deliver fresher and better tasting products.