Getting the most from investing in planet-friendly, scalable technology
We’re often asked by both investors and growers – why invest in vertical farming? As vertical farming technology providers (who have been in the industry for over ten years), we've seen investors dip their toes into the industry looking for both a responsible and sustainable investment. Vertical farming ticks both of those boxes and – when done right – has the potential forfar greater yields (and in turn ROI) than other forms of agriculture, such as greenhouse or open-field farming.
As well as the sheer flexibility an IGS vertical farm affords (they can be used by everyone from propagators and large-scale growers, to entrepreneurs and pharmaceutical companies), vertical farming has numerous environmental benefits.
At IGS, we make vertical farming technology optimised for resource efficiency – our ebb and flood system makes sure crops get the exact amount of water and nutrients needed, recycling any excess through the fertigation system to help reduce water use. This is just one step we take to ensure investors a profitable, sustainable, and scalable operation when using our Growth Towers.
Aside from the range of use and environmental benefits, there are many other reasons to invest in vertical farming, such as greater food security, scalability, and the ability to safeguard against energy price hikes, amongst others. We’ve broken them down one by one, so you’ve got all the facts you need to invest sensibly.
1 - Weather the effects of climate change
Extreme weather now appears inextricably linked to lower yields, and consequently, crop shortages, presenting the agricultural industry with serious challenges to assess. Prominent crop-producing nations worldwide are forecasting lower yields for 2023/24 due to prolonged heatwaves and heavy rainfall, decimating produce. This can be seen in nations typically known for their leafy greens, such as Italy, Greece, and Spain. 2023 also saw the hottest summer on record (July was the hottest since records began), and, if we’re to protect the future of agriculture, we need to think about how to weather the storm. Vertical farming can help.
At IGS, we use Total Control Environment Agriculture (TCEA) to create the perfect growing environment, 365 days a year. Through TCEA, growers can control temperature, light, humidity, irrigation, nutrition, and even air composition. This enables them to produce up to 20 harvests of basil per annum – roughly 3 times more than glasshouse production, and 10 times more than open field.
2 - Safeguard against supply chain shortages and energy price hikes
For several years, we’ve been dealing with the aftereffects of colossal global issues. The Covid pandemic wreaked havoc with supply chains, weakening food supply chains across the world. This has since been exasperated by the war in Ukraine, and the consequences can be seen in many of our energy and fuel bills. Luckily, it’s easy to safeguard against high prices and power a vertical farm using renewable energy, which can help to significantly lower operating costs.
Investing in a vertical farm also presents an opportunity for renewable energy producers. It allows them to invest in a long-term direct-wire contract, and also to receive a greater price per kWh than selling on the wider grid. It also enables them to be part of the circular economy and effectively removes the middleman when selling energy.
At IGS, our Growth Towers use approximately 1/3 of the electricity consumed by other vertical farms. This makes for more efficient crop production, and ensures that any penny spent on electricity is spent wisely.
3 - Scale at a speed that suits you
Scaling crop production
Vertical farms can be used to grow a wide variety of crops, giving growers the freedom to choose where to scale up or down depending on demand. Our Growth Towers can produce anything from tree seedlings to leafy greens, including more than 250 seed-to-harvest and propagules. This allows our customers to have a diverse crop portfolio, opening up commercial opportunities and giving them the ability to react to changes in the market.
IGS technology is modular by design. This means it’s easy to scale your operations in line with market demand. Farmers can start with a lower number of towers, and then scale production to meet demand for produce.
4 - Bring the food closer to the consumer
Global food miles account for nearly 20% of total food-systems emissions. When coupled with an ever-growing population, there’s a clear need to rethink the way we produce and deliver food. Vertically farmed produce can be grown closer to the consumer, reducing carbon emissions, as well as costs spent on transportation.
Due to smaller land footprints (a typical IGS Growth Tower has a 520 m2 growing area from a farm with a 41 m2 footprint),a vertical farm can be located anywhere from industrial areas and brownfield sites to rural locations. Vertical farming isn’t restricted by seasonality, either. By controlling every aspect of the growing environment, growers can also replicate a crop’s ideal conditions, 365 days a year. This means that seasonal crops can be produced locally, reducing food miles and ensuring consumers get easy access to a broad range of nutritious (not to mention tasty) produce.
As well as this, vertical farming has a significantly lower carbon footprint compared to greenhouse farming. A vertical farm produces (on average) 2kg of C02 per kilogram of dry weight, compared to 62kg per kilogram of dry weight in a greenhouse farm. Paired with lower food emissions – and the ability to grow crops out of season – this makes vertical farming a sustainable form of agriculture.
5 - Produce high-value, nutritious crops
Consumers are ever-more health conscious – so much so, that two-thirds of respondents to a 2023 Tetra Pak survey said they now pay more attention to what food they consume compared to the same period two years ago. The same survey reported a majority would sacrifice convenience – and pay more – if it meant getting access to healthier, nutritious products. This shows a growing awareness of the benefits of high-quality, nutrient-dense food – which vertical farming can provide.
By controlling every aspect of the growing environment (such as temperature, humidity, lighting, watering, C02 levels, and nutrient delivery), growers can eliminate variations in produce. This creates the perfect growing environment, year in, year out, working to create the ideal crop.
IGS vertical farms eliminate the need for protective chemicals, so growers can produce crops in bio secure environments without herbicides, biocides, or fungicides. This makes for an ultimately more nutritious crop, appealing to both health and environmentally conscious consumers.
Investing in a vertical farm
Before making any investment, it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons, as well as the relevant social and environmental factors. Crucially- investing in a vertical farm helps to address the omnipresent issues of food security and the climate crisis. On top of this, it also gives farmers and renewable energy producers the opportunity to safeguard against global price hikes, give back to the grid, and ensure affordable energy for operations. Thanks to the scalable nature of vertical farming technology, it’s also easy to increase or decrease demands to suit market demand. Watch our webinar how to secure the right funding partner for your vertical farm to find out more.
Want to learn more? Get in touch to speak with one of our experts to find our how investing in a vertical farm could work for you.