Vertical farming, a form of plant cultivation on grow trays arranged vertically in a controlled indoor environment, has been consistently growing in popularity due to its advantages over traditional farming techniques. Thanks to the latest innovations in indoor growing equipment, vertical farm operators can profitably offer their customers a variety of fresh pesticide-free agricultural products at reasonable prices thanks to reduced transportation, utility and other operating costs.
However, operating vertical farms comes with a unique set of challenges:
- Dealing with space constraints. When operating close to the end consumer in expensive urban areas, it is crucial to optimize the use of vertical space in the farm to allow for maximum yield per foot of floor space. Vertical space between grow trays is always limited and yet it has to fit ventilation fans which will generate enough airflow over the plant canopy to create a uniform climate throughout the space. TerraBloom fans are some of the most compact fans on the market and are perfect for installation locations with limited clearance. For instance, our 8” EC Fan (Model: ECMF-200) requires only 8.78” (223mm) of vertical clearance and our 10” EC Fan (Model: ECMF-250) requires only 10.79” (274mm) of vertical clearance including the metal mounting bracket, which comes pre-installed on each fan.
- Avoiding outbreaks of mildew and botrytis. Maximizing yields in vertical farm conditions requires dense plant footprint on each of the vertical levels. It is common to have dozens of plants on each of the grow levels with minimal space between each plant. Such conditions can introduce undesired microclimates with excessive humidity, which can weaken the natural defense mechanisms of the cultivated plants and make them susceptible to mildew and botrytis (aka bud rot). An outbreak of either can wipe out the entire crop in a matter of days since the mold spores can spread quickly among the plants located in close proximity to each other. The only reliable way to prevent such outbreaks is to have constant air movement over the plant canopies on each of the vertical layers of the farm. This makes the climate uniform regardless of the location of the plant on the tray. TerraBloom fans generate strong directional airflow with speeds up to 12 meters per second. They can push air across the entire canopy helping to eliminate harmful microclimate zones.
- Large scale operations require simultaneous use of dozens of fans. In many cases, the output of ventilation fans must be adjusted in response to the changes in the farm’s environment. For instance, when the lights turn off and plants release excess moisture, the humidity in the room can spike by 20-30%. The exhaust fans on the fam must increase the speed to accelerate air exchange rate and remove excess humidity before it can cause problems. Without automated methods of fan speed management even a simple task of adjusting the output of the fans at a large facility can take hours. It is crucial to be able to automate the operation of ventilation equipment and be able to control multiple fans from one device. However, the common issue is that most manufacturers limit their customers’ options for ventilation controlling devices to their own branded unit. This makes it impossible to integrate such fans into existing climate control systems in commercial facilities. TerraBloom’s goal is to provide our customers with as many ways of controlling our fans as we can. ECMF series fans support all common speed controller formats on the market and can be integrated into automated environment control systems which support PWM, Potentiometer and 0-10V signals. It is even possible for our customer to create their own custom hardware controllers based on Arduino and Raspberry Pi architecture and deploy their own automation code on such controllers. Lastly, ECMF also can provide output in FG/Tachometer pulse format for the centralized way of fan performance monitoring and any prompt issue identification and resolution.
- Maintaining minimal operation costs is challenging due to geographical locations. Vertical farms are typically based within metropolitan areas where electricity costs are higher than in the rural areas. TerraBloom’s ECMF fans are built with Energy Star's most efficient rated EC motors, which can help you save between 50-80% in electricity costs compared to AC motor based fans. For instance, our 10” model ECMF-250 delivers 946 CFM airflow rate using only 126 Watts at max speed. The annual cost of continuous operation of this fan at max speed using $0.29 average cost per KWH is only $380. An AC motor based fan with the comparable output, will use 300+ Watts of power and will lead to over $800 in electricity costs when operated 24/7 annually. Considering the large scale with multiple facilities using hundreds of such fans our commercial clients were able to save millions of dollars annually in energy costs in addition to collecting energy efficiency upgrade rebates available from national power grid companies.
- Safety and reliability. All TerraBloom ECMF fans have safety listings with independent safety organizations such as Intertek’s ETL. This makes our products compatible with the equipment safety requirements of commercial insurance underwriters. TerraBloom is a member of Home Ventilation Institute (HVI) and contributes its EC fans for independent performance testing by HVI-certified laboratories. Our commercial size ECMF fans technical specs are rated in accordance with HVI methodology providing our clients with assurance of accuracy of such listed parameters as airflow output, resilience to static pressure, power consumption and sound emission levels. The reliability of our fans is backed by a 2 year warranty.