Vertical Farming: Producing Crops Independent of Climate and Environmental Conditions

Resilient production, reliable supply chains and local value creation are increasingly coming into focus. This poses a particular challenge for the production of plant products. The conventional cultivation of plants and food in the field is subject to locally varying location factors. These problems are further exacerbated by the ever-increasing effects of climate change, in extreme cases drought, hot spells or heavy rainfall. Therefore, in many parts of the world, plant cultivation under controlled, artificially climatized conditions can be a way out of the foreseeable consequences of climate change, which are already becoming apparent. In order to increase efficiency and reduce the amount of land required - this is particularly crucial for urban farming concepts - crops are increasingly being grown in vertical farming facilities. Vertical farming refers to the mass production of plants in a confined space in multi-storey systems and is suitable for various purposes.

Production-optimised vertical farming

Fraunhofer IPT optimizes vertical farming systems for the respective application purposes and translates the biological requirements into engineering parameters. These design and planning parameters provide the basis for the concept of a vertical farming system for the respective application areas. The conceptual design also includes the definition of the technical building equipment as well as the superordinate production concept. We attach particular importance to the resource and energy optimisation of the vertical farming plant production system. In the overall system, all process steps are fully automated and digitized - from sowing to harvesting.

Unser Angebot

  • Application-related concepts for vertical farming production systems
  • Preparation of all necessary planning documents, including the technical building equipment
  • Development of a customized automation solution
  • Area- and resource-optimized plant design and process planning
  • Supervision of the installation and commissioning
  • Continuous optimization of ongoing operations
  • Preparation of studies and concepts for Vertical Farming

User Case »VertiPharm«

© 16 Colours, Agentur für 3D Visualisierung GmbH

Fraunhofer IPT has developed the vertical farming system "VertiPharm" at the Aachen site for a Fraunhofer IME user case. VertiPharm is a fully automated pilot-scale vertical farming research platform with numerous digitized and automated functions:

  • Multi-level Vertical Farming
  • Single plant handling
  • Sensor-based in-process control
  • Optimized energy efficiency and space utilization
  • 2D/3D plant scanning (developed in cooperation with Fraunhofer IIS)
  • Automated harvesting unit
  • Interface for further processing
  • Central data management

The structure of the vertical farm unit consists of eight cultivation levels and offers around 550 m2 net cultivation area for the continuous or batch cultivation of plants with maximum reproducibility. Various parameters such as temperature, humidity, CO2 concentration, LED lighting and the composition of the plant nutrient solution can be set and monitored with a centralized control system. Each plant is given a unique ID at sowing and is individually tracked throughout the cultivation period until harvest. Movement, sensor and measurement data are continuously recorded by the system and used for in-process control or for subsequent analysis of cultivation parameters and plant characteristics.

The fully automated plant production can be used for the production of food and non-food plants for the production of food or pharmaceuticals, but also for the cultivation of crops of different varieties and sizes. In this way, the multifunctional research platform can be used to research and test a wide range of applications and issues, including engineering:

  • food crop cultivation
  • Cultivation of medicinal/speciality plants
  • Cultivation of ornamental plants
  • Applications for pharmaceuticals
  • Plant breeding and plant phenotyping
  • Software applications, for example for the digitalization of production, artificial intelligence or augmented reality-supported maintenance