Transforming the Future of Agriculture through Indoor Farming

National Design Build Services (NDBS) specializes in designing indoor farming spaces throughout the United States. In response to the world’s population growth and a lessening availability of suitable land for growing crops, we provide innovative solutions to farmers that maximize the amount of produce cultivated all while using less space.

Our experience with hydroponic technology allows us to make vertical farming possible for you. Hydroponics is a cost-effective and energy-efficient way to grow leafy greens without the traditional need for soil. In order for this process to remain cost effective and energy efficient, we must ensure there is appropriate space to monitor and manage the irrigation systems.

Irrigation Methods

  • Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) is a method where a shallow film of nutrient solution flows over the plant roots, ensuring that the leafy greens are irrigated but not completely soaked. 

Vertical Farming Highlights and Advantages

  • Optimizing the growth of microgreens by placing them in controlled indoor environments that are continuously regulated in temperature, humidity, lighting, and nutrients.
  • Reducing the amount of water and other resources needed to grow greens as compared to traditional farming methods. 
  • Using no GMOS or pesticides, producing a clean, flavorful taste and improving the overall quality of the product. 
  • Providing a greater yield of high-quality, healthy produce at an affordable cost to surrounding communities.

The Purpose

Did you know that by 2050, we’ll need to produce 70% more food to feed an estimated world population of 10 billion? As it currently stands, our agricultural system cannot sustainably feed that many people, most of whom will be living in urban areas. Vertical grow farms use 95% less water, 95% less shipping distance, and 99% less land—with no pesticides, herbicides, or GMOs. Crops can be grown all year round without depleting or contaminating the water table.

Urban farming is a safe and healthy way to deliver high-quality microgreens to more communities at an affordable price all while generating less waste. Industrialization and urbanization are causing considerable losses of arable lands all while the world’s population continues to grow at a fierce rate. This increasing population obviously will require a more robust and sustainable food supply than what is in place today. Controlled environment agriculture (CEA) is poised to become a vital tool in solving these ever-expanding problems.

HVAC System Design Considerations

Plant Factory HVAC Systems Design

There is a lot to understand when it comes to urban farming. Our experience with HVAC design compliments that of the grower to create optimal year-round growing conditions. Growers must be familiar with plant biology and what is key to successfully grow plants indoors, such as appropriate lighting and water to enable photosynthesis, and sometimes even movement of the plants to accommodate their growth cycle. With vertical farming, planters also must consider how exactly to arrange their microgreens, whether from the “ground” upward by using plant trays or in vertical columns running from the floor to the ceiling.

Whatever your reason for vertical farming may be, there are many HVAC considerations that must be evaluated to ensure the indoor farming environment is fully optimized to meet your growing needs. Here are a few examples of specific considerations we at NDBS evaluate and customize for each grow space:

It is understood that the mission for many urban farmers is to produce healthy and safe microgreens quickly and affordably. Because of this, the system must be designed to accommodate the grower’s needs, such as a desired vapor pressure deficit (VPD) which drives specific temperature and humidity conditions for the air surrounding the microgreens. Understanding this will help us design a conditioned space that is properly suited to grow your crops efficiently in a sustainable manner.

Temperature and humidity can greatly impact a plant’s physiology, photosynthesis process, and quality of growth. When the room air temperature rises, there is an increase in the loss of water through the plants which will increase space humidity.  Humidity is tied to a plant’s ability to draw in CO2 and release oxygen and water. Too much humidity can potentially hinder the growth of the leafy greens and create an environment at risk of mold growth. NDBS will consider all the relevant factors in order to create the best growth environment for your crop.

Our HVAC team is here to help you design an energy-efficient airflow system that will result in swift payback. The major benefit of multi-tiered cultivation is the ability to expand canopy square footage without taking up more floor space. However, there are some challenges that come with this method of growing, such as ensuring the air conditions at each level are uniform and enabling the hot, humid air to make its way back to the HVAC system for removal. NDBS is able to retrofit any existing racking systems with custom designed airflow systems. Our designs can lessen the amount of equipment required to reach air flow targets, which cuts back on capital, operation, and energy costs to maximize profits for the facility.

Many factors influence the air velocity or air flow needs within a growing space, such as different canopy heights, various distances from LED lights and the amount of ductwork present. Unstable air velocity can affect VPD levels and thereby alter the plants’ transpiration rate, movement of water within the plant, and inhibit the gas exchange through the leaf stomata. Our HVAC system design must carefully consider the amount of air that is directed over the canopies to make sure that the optimal VPD is consistently being met.

Sustainability is a key feature that sets vertical farming apart from traditional farming. NDBS wants to ensure the longevity and profitability of your indoor farming space by incorporating sustainable practices into your facility, such as water conservation. Our HVAC team will develop a design that not only conserves–but also optimizes–the use of water, ensuring that all water that is removed from the space through the HVAC system is able to be recycled for reuse.

In outdoor farming, plants experience cyclical sunlight which results in a “light” and “dark” growing phase. Plant factories with artificial lighting (PFAL) simulate similar cycles using high intensity LED bulbs optimized for photosynthetic active radiation (PAR) to encourage plant growth. The light cycles drastically affect the temperature and humidity loads in the space. To accommodate for this, we must design a system that is appropriate for all potential lighting conditions.   

Space loading and system operation for urban farming is much different than your usual comfort cooling applications for humans. Our HVAC team must consider the appropriate equipment that will properly cool, heat, and dehumidify the indoor farming space to preserve the temperature and humidity that is needed year-round for the plants to grow properly. NDBS will take an extensive look at your space to ensure that we are providing you with appropriately designed and cost-effective systems.

You can be confident that when designing your indoor vertical farm or greenhouse, NDBS will design and build the system that will effectively handle all the varying load conditions experienced in your grow farm, providing you with an optimal grow environment.

Contact us today to learn more about how NDBS can help you design the most efficient indoor farming space.