Novagric has developed in collaboration with Tecnalia an innovation project that solves the critical points of vertical agriculture, increasing the profitability of this type of installations. The project supported and financed by the CDTI (Center for the Development of Industrial Technology) and the Ministry of Science and Innovation, began its design in 2020. The study and development of this new architectural model called Vertical Sunning, with a passive solar design that uses intelligent light and water strategies to maximise the efficiency of the system, has been carried out for two years.
‘We have used innovative Ray Tracing technologies to design the structure, optimise PAR radiation, and homogenise the distribution of light to the crops that will be located inside.’ Says Juan Pardo, project manager and head of Innovation at Novagric.
Indoor farming has been evolving, but the investment remains high. Numerous research studies highlight the urge for vertical farms to decrease operation expenses to become more profitable. Vertical Sunning aims to solve this critical point: the high energy cost.
‘Our goal was to develop a new model of vertical food production without artificial lighting, prioritising the access and distribution of solar radiation, with low-energy systems and using water and sunlight for reducing the carbon footprint’ explains Juan Pardo.
A prototype of the Vertical Sunning structure has been built at Novagric’s technological facilities in Spain and is now in full production. The construction model uses modular and lightweight materials such as mobile racking systems to take advantage of the space, varying the arrangement of the crops according to the path of sunlight. To minimise energy consumption, water is used to absorb infrared radiation and allow PAR access, while reducing the heating and distributing heat to the interior. The irrigation system is hydroponic, reducing water consumption by up to 50% compared to other substrate crops.
A technical-agronomic study is currently underway to validate the design in a real growing environment. Thanks to the large volume available, besides leafy, and aromatic species, more complex and unusual varieties have also been introduced in vertical farming to solve the challenge of productivity.