Can you grow strawberries in a vertical farm?
As demand for locally grown produce increases, vertical farming has emerged as an innovative solution to some of the logistical and environmental challenges facing agriculture. With its ability to provide the perfect environment for year-round production, faster growth cycles, and increased yields, vertical farming provides not only an ideal environment for leafy greens and herbs, starter plants for some fruiting crops like chilies, tomatoes and strawberries can also start life in a vertical environment.
In this article, we explore the feasibility of growing strawberry starter plants in a vertical farm and the benefits it can offer growers.
What is vertical farming?
Vertical farming is a type of agriculture in which crops are grown in vertically stacked layers. We refer to our vertical farms as Growth Towers, which utilise total controlled environment agriculture (TCEA) technology. Unlike traditional controlled environment agriculture (CEA) used in growing environments such as glasshouses, which can be prone to unpredictable and inconsistent yields because of limitations in controlling the growing environment (sunlight and heat for example), TCEA provides a fully controlled and predictable microclimate by precisely controlling environmental factors.
LED lights, temperature, humidity, and nutritional solutions are all remotely controlled in an IGS vertical farm. Crops are stacked trays and growing conditions are optimised for maximum plant development and yield.
Can strawberry starter plants be grown vertically?
Strawberry starter plants and propagules can be grown in a vertical farm. In fact, vertical farming is an ideal environment for starting plants, including strawberries, as it allows for the optimisation of the growing environment, producing a starter plant which has less variation and is free from pests and the associated chemicals used to control infestations.
Growing strawberry propagules vertically can be an effective way to promote healthy growth, or starter plants which leads to increased yields of fully grown plants. With the right equipment, growing medium, and environmental controls, strawberry starter plants can thrive in a vertical environment. And the process is repeatable.
Why grow strawberry starter plants in vertical farms?
Starter plants for strawberries grown in a vertical environment have many benefits over ones grown on traditional farms.
More control over crop scheduling
One of the primary advantages of growing strawberry starter plants vertically is that it allows for year-round production, as the growing conditions can be carefully controlled indoors. This means that your strawberry growing cycle can start regardless of the weather or climate conditions outside. Growing your own starter plants also removes the need for cold storage of plants which can result in waste.
By controlling the growing environment, vertical indoor farming allows you to increase the number of crop cycles in a season which can translate to higher yield and revenue.
Increased yields over traditional farming
The biggest benefit of growing your strawberry starter plants in a vertical indoor environment instead of importing them, is control over supply chain. Around 90% of strawberry seedlings used in the UK are imported from abroad and more than a third of these are never planted due to damage and disease, whether picked up during the importing process or because they are grown in non-bio secure environments. Using starter plants from an IGS farm, one UK grower reduced losses by around 30%.
Starter plants grown for either side of the traditional growing season must be cold stored, which can also lower yield. This storage requires large facilities and can often have significant running costs, all whilst impacting the quality of starter plants available during the growing season. Vertically farmed starter plants don't require cold storage, and if any fail during the transplant phase, you can quickly grow replacements.
The transportation of strawberry starter plants over long distances often reduces the quality of the propagule, creating plants that may no longer be suitable for planting when they reach their destination. An indoor vertical farm can be built close to the growing area, therefore improving the quality of your end product. This also reduced the carbon footprint of your farming operation.
Vertical farming also maximises growing space, allowing more starter plants to be produced in the same or smaller area, which can be especially important for commercial growers who need to maximize the growing capacity of existing operations. And as populations continue to rise and land availability becomes increasingly restricted, vertical farming provides a method for producing more food per square metre of land.
Why choose an IGS vertical farm for strawberry propagation
At IGS, we call our vertical farms Growth Towers, which use patented technology around power, control and automation to create a finely tuned growing environment for growing crops and plants 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Our vertical farming systems provide commercial benefits and opportunities while addressing pressing global challenges such as food security and sustainability.
We use the three weather dimensions (sun, wind, and rain) to create the perfect growing environment in our Growth Towers. At the heart of IGS' platform is a combination of cloud software, automation, and mechanisation, as well as multi-spectral LED lighting, HVAC, and fertigation systems.
We have successfully cultivated strawberry mother plants and propagules through R&D at our Crop Research Centre in Scotland. IGS Growth Towers provide regular and predictable production of healthy and clean propagules in any acceptable location. This ensures supply security because they are not affected by bad weather or logistical interruptions. IGS will continue with further trials and research in collaboration with academic partners, propagators, and growers.
Let's take another look at the benefits of growing your strawberry propagule in an IGS Growth Tower:
- Vertically integrate and produce high-quality plants
- Grow superior quality strawberry plants consistently and predictably which improves revenue and profitability
- Protect mother stock for future growing
- Remove the risks of fluctuating supply from propagators
- Supply on time for planting schedules
- Free of disease, pests and chemicals
- No need to put plants in cold storage
Growing strawberry starter plants in an IGS vertical farm can be an effective way to promote healthy growth, save space, increase yield, and reduce import costs.
Vertical farming presents a promising solution to the challenges of traditional agriculture, especially for growing strawberry starter plants. With its ability to provide a controlled environment for year-round production, faster growth, and increased yields, vertical farming can offer many benefits to fruit growers.
We can look forward to a future of sustainable and efficient food production, with high-quality strawberry starter plants available to growers, regardless of weather or climate conditions. If you want to find out more about how an IGS Growth Tower could help your business, get in touch now or download our guide on hybrid growing methods.