Vertical Farming Crop Yields That Will Blow Your Mind
While Wyoming is a known as a rural state with a rich agricultural history, it is not exactly considered the nation’s breadbasket. Between the high elevation and the long winters, growing food is not an easy feat. Despite being the least populated state in America, and having more land than you can shake a stick at, they still have to import food for much of the year.
But thanks to an initiative called Vertical Harvest — residents from Jackson, Wyoming decided to build a massive vertical greenhouse downtown in the hopes that one of the world’s few vertical farms can help feed the town with tomatoes, herbs, and microgreens. After running a successful Kickstarter campaign, and receiving a grant from the state, they’re set to open their facility by the end of the year.
The structure will be built along the side of a parking garage, and only take up about 1/10th of an acre. They’ll be using hydroponics to cut down on water usage, and they’ve created a unique carousel system to rotate their crops throughout the day, allowing each plant to receive plenty of sunlight in a limited space. Despite the energy needed to run the carousel, it will probably save electricity that would have been spent on UV lights.
All told, these methods are expected grow 100,000 lbs. of fresh produce every year. According to their website, this will be the equivalent of growing on 5 acres using traditional (i.e. big agra) farming techniques. When it’s finished, it’ll look something like this.
“We’re replacing food that was being grown in Mexico or California and shipped in,” explains Penny McBride, one of the co-founders. “We feel like the community’s really ready for a project like this. Everybody’s so much more aware of the need to reduce transportation, and people like to know their farmer and where food’s coming from.”
Vertical Harvest places plants on carousels that keep them moving the length of the greenhouse, giving them equal time in natural light, and also allowing workers to pick and transfer the crops. Using hydroponics, Vertical Harvest will be capable of producing over 37,000 pounds of greens, 4,400 pounds of herbs, and 44,000 pounds of tomatoes. Its founders say that Vertical Harvest’s 30 foot by 150 foot plot of land offers the same growing areas as 23 acres of traditional farmland, and has a fraction of the environmental impact, using 90 percent less water and 100 percent fewer pesticides than traditional farming.
Inside, the plants move throughout each greenhouse floor on a conveyor belt that the founders compare to a moving rack at a dry cleaner. As they rotate, each plant gets an equal amount of time in natural light on the south side of the building, saving energy in artificial lighting. On the top level, the system also pulls plants up to the ceiling, effectively creating an extra floor. The conveyor also brings each plant to workers who can transplant or harvest the crops.
The startup plans to employ workers with developmental disabilities who have few local options for a job. “We have a certain number of hours of work and divide it up based on ability, desire, and skill,” Yehia explains. “The job is developed based on how many hours someone wants to work and can work.”