Standardization to build a vertical farming industry or building customized farms that keep cost high?
There are a lot of new ideas being trialed within the indoor farming space. “One of the hurdles I see is that it’s expected that there are standardized products available that will fit the new vertical farming systems being developed. Many farmers request that manufacturers develop custom components and equipment to meet the specifications of their system and their requirements, assuming that their systems will be the ones adopted by the industry and standardized,” says Chris Higgins, CEO of Hort Americas.”
According to Chris vertical farmers mostly don’t always take into account the required size and scale needed for custom made products. As an example, many of the new farming systems don’t fit the current substrate industry models. And that in itself is ok. Unfortunately, many of these farms aren’t large enough to afford the customizations needed to keep their produce profitable. That then creates additional work for these new farming businesses. Instead of being able to focus on growing, they’re trying to figure out the best way to manage a non-existent supply channel. “Growers keep designing new irrigation models and growing systems without thought of how they are going to source a substrate, consistently and cost-effectively.”
Chris says that there is a lot to learn from the Dutch greenhouse industry. Over the years they have built a great model that supports the commercial greenhouse industry really well. Namely, building a commercial vegetable greenhouse around a single crop, with the scale required to manage cost, labor, and the supply channel. “They are focused on reducing labor by using automation and getting as much efficiency out of the system and supply channel as possible. Dutch and other northern European farms grow several vegetable crops in greenhouses that are quite similar to each other. Here in the USA, the vertical farming industry is new. We are still finding ourselves. Defining our plan, and building learning to build out an industry that will support potential growth.” >>>