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4 Ways to increase your yield with a vertical urban farm

Looking to get the best possible crop yield from your vertical urban farm? Here’s four simple ways you can maximise your results when farming vertically.

Grouwup green wall system give you this best possible crop.

Farming takes a huge toll on the environment. Over the past 40 years, the Earth lost over a third of its arable land to damage caused by soil erosion (from over ploughing) and pollutants (like pesticides). This forced farmers to look for more sustainable solutions for food production, and the vertical urban farm provides just that.


With less space, less energy and less water, urban farmers can yield three times the crop you would gain from the same space you would’ve with a horizontal farm.

Horizontal vs Vertical farming

For those new to vertical farming, a simple soil based system is a great way to start.

Although hydroponic green walls may offer higher crop yields (great for large, established corporations), they are tricky to set up and (due to their finicky nature) require constant monitoring to avoid disease. The beauty of a soil based system is that it doesn’t require any high-level understanding of hydroponics, you simply carry on planting exactly as you would have in a regular, ground based garden. The only difference is that you won’t need to spend tedious hours (requiring large teams) ploughing the land.

Soil based systems are easy to install, and require considerably less maintenance than their hydroponic siblings - lowering the overall cost of ownership of your green wall setup.

There are four main components to a successful soil-based vertical farm. If you get these four elements right, you’ll enjoy a healthy, lush crop from your indoor vertical farm.

Climate control
If you’re farming indoors, you’ll need to be very aware of striking the right balance of temperature and humidity in the air. The benefit of indoor farming is that you’re not at the mercy of Mother Nature during certain seasons, however, getting this right requires some work. One thing growing indoors does do is lessen the risk of pests, infestation and disease. As farmers have known for millennia, growing outdoors works perfectly well, but just requires coverage or occasional protection against excessive heat, hail or frost.  

Lighting
If you’re growing indoors, artificial lights or ‘grow lights’ can be used either to supplement sunshine, or to replace it completely. It’s also important that the lights mimic the sun with their blue and red waves, and you can do this with three types of lighting:
  • Fluorescent lights
  • High-pressure sodium (HPS) sometimes referred to as HID (High intensity discharge)
  • Light emitting diodes (LED)
Light specialists Lux Review say:
 
“Put simply, plants will not survive without an appropriate amount of light as poor illumination slows photosynthesis. Photosynthesis requires light levels of at least 1000 lux [lighting measurement] for plants to thrive, with levels of 2500 lux often being required.”
 
If you’re growing outdoors, in a greenhouse or tunnel there is no need to supplement lighting, unless you are growing through the winter in Canada.
 
Nutrients
Just like growing outdoors, in a traditional farm, adding compost and fertilizer to your soil will nourish your plants, helping them to grow healthy and strong. You can also add liquid fertilizer to your green wall’s irrigation system, so that your plants constantly have a fresh supply of nutrients.

The two best fertilizers to use are:
  • Time-release fertilizers. “Soil microbes activate organic fertilizers, which slowly release their nutrients to plants,” says Better Homes and Gardens.

  • Liquid fish or kelp. Nutrient rich and easy to apply, this is one of the cheapest and most efficient ways to nurture your plants. It’s available quite affordably from Amazon.
You’ll need to fertilize your vertical farm weekly or every second week using an organic fertilizer. An organic, water-soluble plant food allows you to add nutrients to your green wall quite easily when you’re watering it, and it allows you to spray the plants with the nutrient-rich mix.
 
A synthetic fertilizer can hurt your plants if you don’t follow the instructions properly, and isn’t recommended for potted plants.
 
Companion planting
Even though indoor vertical farms are less susceptible to pests, you’ll still have a small resident population of insect life. This is inevitable, unless you’re spraying regularly with pesticides.

Companion planting is a great organic pest control solution. Creating crop diversity in your urban farm will develop a healthy ecosystem, filled with the good bugs (like bees, wasps and ladybugs) who will feed off of the bad ones (like caterpillars and aphids).
 
Not only that, but planting certain plants near each other (like basil and cherry tomatoes) can actually naturally increase your yield.

 

Starting your own vertical urban farm (whether it’s for personal use or commercial) is not as hard as it seems. By sticking to a soil based system, you’ll keep your initial costs down, as well as eliminating the need for expertise in botanic science. Once you’ve decided on the right system to suit your space, the rest is easy!

Need help deciding exactly what you need to get going? Contact GrowUp and our team of green wall experts will help you get started with your vertical farm.

Need help deciding exactly what you need to get going? Contact GrowUp and our team of green wall experts will help you get started with your vertical  farm.