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Vertical farms: the future of agriculture

The trend to build vertical farms is increasing across the planet because these farms are able to guarantee a future for the world’s growing population. Since the publication of our first articles (here and here), many new projects have been realized, even bigger, even more advanced by using technologies such as that proposed by GREEN HOUSE, the IoT (Internet of Things) system for the monitoring of greenhouses built by Italian start up AURORAS. Cutting-edge technology but affordable also for small greenhouses that want to optimize the management, produce more and consume fewer resources.

Worldwide, hydroponic greenhouses are also spreading in huge sizes as Sundrop, the vast hydroponic greenhouse built in Port Augusta in the Australian outback.

PRODUCTIVE FEATURES

  • 180,000 tomato plants that produce about 17,000 tons of tomatoes per year.
  • A 10-week life cycle per seedling.
  • Substrate plates made of coconut fiber.

TECHNICAL FEATURES

  • 24,000 solar mirrors which generate up to 39 megawatts of energy per day
  • A tower about 130 m in which the solar energy is conveyed and used to convert water into steam. The steam is used to desalinate salt water that arrives in the greenhouse directly from the ocean, by a conduit of over 2 km. The steam is also used to heat the structure and generate electricity.

SUSTAINABILITY

  • saving 26,000 tons of CO2
  • saving of 2 million liters of fuel
  • production of more than 400 million liters of water
  • no exploitation of  the mineral resources
  • no pesticides usage

Vertical farms are now a distinct possibility for the planet, consumed by intensive production: it is estimated that in 2050 with a 9 billion population, arable surfaces will decrease by a quarter compared to 1960.

To naturally produce soil is impossible in the short term since it takes about 1000 years to get 3 cm of soil . Vertical farms are therefore an effective alternative because they can concentrate production close to heavily populated urban areas (fresh supply and low CO2 emission), maintain high productivity with a secure environment that is undisturbed by weather and pests, save soil because it uses coconut, perlite and clay for substrates, and reduce the water consumption (up to 10 times less).

Other examples of vertical hydroponic greenhouses in operation coming from South East Asia. Singapore and Hong Kong are on the front line with projects developed in the urban area.

Hong Kong is focusing on hydroponic greenhouses as an alternative to the massive importation of Chinese agricultural products. One of the first smart farms in the city centre, in operation from 2013, occupies an area of ​​230 square meters on the second floor of a building. Here every 21 days you collect rocket and Chinese cabbage, and, every day, you get fresh salad ready to be sold (about 15 kg per day).
From 2013 to date, about 20 companies have stepped in the business of vertical farms. To date it is estimated that soon production of 750 tonnes per year will be reached, supported by a demand increasingly focused on ensuring a safe and healthy product, as well as zero km.

Near Singapore,  a technology center of “the future of farms” has been developed, including a hydroponic greenhouse (Sky Greens) made up of hundreds of aluminum towers, 9 m tall, where almost half a ton of vegetables are produced daily.

The technology is critical in these structures, even if small. The hydroponic greenhouse, in fact, needs LED lights, if they are not located in sunny areas throughout the year, and a number of wireless sensors capable of maintaining a suitable environment for the development of seedlings.

This type of technology is developed by AURORAS with GREEN HOUSE, the wireless sensor system for advanced monitoring of greenhouses. The recorded parameters can be the most different, from atmospheric ones (temperature, humidity, solar radiation) to those for the nourishment of the plant (EC, pH). The reliability of detection allows you to manage the greenhouse optimally, saving costs. Any intervention in fact can be done on a scientific basis, taking into account the real needs of the plants (irrigation, fertigation, heating, lighting etc). The wireless sensors have no cables so they are easy to install and position. Data communication takes place automatically via internet connection. The data is then accessible from any connected device.

The benefits of adopting wireless sensors are both environmental and economic as demonstrated by this case history.

GREEN HOUSE was developed specifically for greenhouses and uses the technology of wireless sensors interconnected with other devices for storing data and their processing. These complex systems, though advanced and precise, yet easy to use, are part of the IoT (Internet of Things). For some years IoT (Internet of Things) is considered the technology of the future because it can measure, process and make predictions in every area of its application. Its data detection capacity also allows to create a data history on the basis of which deepen the knowledge of your activities / field / greenhouse / vineyard and enabling to act quickly with cost-cutting.

If you want to learn more about wireless sensors for your greenhouse and your needs, contact us now.





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