Scaling up plant production in vertical farms

Lisanne Meulendijks

One of VF’s advantages often mentioned is that crops can be produced anywhere around the globe, irrespective of the local growing conditions. Once the perfect indoor “growing recipe” is found for a specific crop, this recipe can potentially be copied anywhere. Practical experience however shows that reality is more complex. One and the same growing recipe set in different technical systems of different scales can create very different crops results.

This is due to the impact the technical installation has on the plant and because in a VF the crop strongly influences its own growing environment creating a microclimate in between the crop, which is different from the macroclimate which is controlled at room level. This interaction between the crop and the technical installation is unique for each VF design, which makes scaling up result from an R&D scale to a large commercial scale more complex than simply 1-to-1 copying the growing setpoints of the climate computer. To enable scale up of R&D results, the growing conditions directly around the crop and the plant response itself to these conditions should be monitored.

In this presentation we will dive into this topic on the interaction between the technical design and the plant itself and share results of the applied experimental trials that are performed at our Vertical Farming Research facility in the Delphy Improvement Centre, where we are tackling this challenge.

Interview with Lisanne Meulendijks

What drives you?
I’m excited about translating R&D results on VF cultivation knowledge to commercial scale Vertical Farms. Besides this being a technical challenge, which includes understanding of plant sciences, fysics, thermo/fluid dynamics etc. it is also strongly about translating scientific knowledge and understanding to pracitcal situations and language. I love that with the work we do in our Delphy Improvement Centre we can form this bridge between different deciplines and help the industry further. This gives me loads of energy.

Why should the delegate attend your presentation?
In this presentation you will learn how to look at VF crop production in a holistic way, taking into account both the plant and the technical aspects of the growing environment it is in. For anyone growing crops in an complete indoor environment, it is crucial to take both these factors into account.

What emerging technologies/trends do you see as having the greatest potential in the short and long run?
Given that so much is still unknown about the interaction between the crop and its technical installation I see huge potential in the development of crop monitoring systems that can sense the growing conditions directly around the crop and relate these to the plant response. This requires the development of plant monitoring sensors that are able to measure at micro level.

What kind of impact do you expect them to have?
Once we work towards such monitoring systems at crop level rather than at room level I believe we can start defining optimal “growing recipes” at this micro scale, which then indeed enables that option of globally applying these optimal recipes.

What are the barriers that might stand in the way?
Vertical Farming is an industry that requires exhange of knowledge between numerous fields of experitse: plant science, climate engineering, technical construction, sensor hardware and software development, data science, etc. and many more fields to add to this list. To optimize production inside a farm, all these different disciplines need to be optimized together, which requries first of all an ecosystem in which knowledge exchange between these different fields is encourages. Furthermore it also requires an effort from experts across the different fields to understand one another and work interdisciplinary. I think both these aspects are barriers that need to be taken as an industry as a whole.

“Special Quote”
Understanding the complex interaction between the crop and its growing environment in an indoor vertical farm is crucial when scaling up plant production to commercial levels.

Lisanne Meulendijks is Specialist Vertical Farming at Delphy. Delphy stands for Worldwide Expertise for Food & Flowers. As an independent knowledge provider, Delphy is globally the leading private knowledge company focused on crop production optimization. Lisanne leads the applied research activities at Delphy’s Vertical Farm R&D Centre and provides vertical farms with advice. Her expertise lies in understanding plant processes and their interaction with the system design of commercial scale vertical farms.

Lisanne is a speaker at the 2021 edition of the Vertical Farming Conference.

Delphy stands for Worldwide Expertise for Food & Flowers. As an independent knowledge provider, Delphy is globally the leading private knowledge company focused on crop production optimization.

Leave a Reply