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Indoor Vertical Farming 101

Indoor Vertical Farming 101

Vertical Farming is the practice of producing food in vertically stacked layers, such as in a skyscraper, used warehouse, or shipping container. The modern ideas of vertical farming use indoor farming techniques and controlled-environment agriculture (CEA) technology, where all environmental factors can be controlled. These facilities utilize artificial control of light and environmental control. Some vertical farms use techniques similar to greenhouses, where natural sunlight can be augmented with artificial lighting and metal reflectors.

Vertical farms are becoming the go-to method to radically improve yield and grow better-tasting food, all within minimal spaces. Vertical Farms also use no pesticides and no fungicides so the food is healthier and safer. This article is your dummies guide to Vertical Farming!

This article is not intended to be an exhaustive how-to guide or even a complete directory but it provides a sample of the growing body of literature on the internet as well as example commercial suppliers for those looking at vertical and container farming.

We will cover:

  • Vertical Growing Resources
  • Small Scale Growing Systems
  • Large Scale Vertical Farming
  • Space Travel
  • Greenhouses
  • Hydroponics
  • Aquaponics
  • Seaweed
  • Aeroponics
  • Microgreens
  • Marijuana Vertical Farms
  • LED lights

Vertical Farming Resources and Articles

Vertical Growing Resources

Vertical Farm – A vertical farming essay blog
Growing Crops in Vertical Farms – Article in the Economist Magazine
Gotham Greens – Indoor farming Network
Skyland Vertical Farming – Youtube video on Skyland, a project idea for sustainable vertical farming.
Vertical Forest – Youtube video of vertical forests in Italy
Sustainability – Economic study of vertical farming
Plant Lab – Vertical farming in Netherlands
Plug and Play – Innovation technology article
High-Tech Grow Room – Article on Treehugger
Is vertical farming the future? – BBC article

Small Scale Growing Systems

Biopod – Smart Microhabitat – Grow a rainforest at home
Seedo Lab – Auto Grow Hydroponics Device.
AVA Byte – Automated Smart Garden
Citysens Modular Vertical Garden
EcoQube Air – The World’s First Desktop Greenhouse
City Hydro – Indoor Growing System
Growing your Greens – Home Tower Vertical Container Garden video
Altifarm – A modular, all-season home farm with self-watering, grow lights, greenhouse cover and mobility.
MIT City Farm

Large Scale Vertical Farming

13 Vertical Farming Innovations That Could Revolutionize Agriculture – Article at Interesting Engineering
What You Should Know About Vertical Farming – Small Business news article
Aero Farms Vertical Farming – the world’s largest indoor vertical farm
ZeroCarbon – underground farming in London
Green Sense Farms –  Integrating vertical farms and greenhouses
The Open Agriculture Initiative – MIT’s “OpenAG”
Plantagon – Retro-fits empty areas and buildings into sustainable food production.
Kennett Mushrooms –  The largest producer in the world of fresh mushrooms in the USA- all grown indoors.

Space Travel

A lot of the knowledge about Vertical farming has come from NASA’s work in developing secure sterile food sources in space. In the context of human spaceflight, food can be consumed as food.
Meals Ready to Eat: Expedition 44 Crew Members Sample Leafy Greens Grown on Space Station
Growing Plants and Vegetables in a Space Garden
Farming in Outer Space –  Space cucumbers reveal secrets of plant survival
Leafy Green Astronauts
Space Greens beat the blues | Plants and psychological well-being in space. Plants may play a key role in maintaining the psychological well-being of space crews.
Full Scale Lunar Greenhouse Prototype Full Scale prototype greenhouse

Vertical Farm in Shipping Containers

Earth Ecosystem Terms

  • Bioregenerative Life Support System –  Artificial ecosystems consisting of complex symbiotic relationships among higher plants, animals, and microorganisms. As the most advanced life support technology, BLSS can provide a habitation environment similar to the Earth’s biosphere for space missions with extended durations, in deep space, and with multiple crews.
  • Earth System Science –  The application of systems science to the Earth. In particular, it considers interactions and ‘feedbacks’, through material and energy fluxes, between the Earth’s sub-systems’ cycles, processes and “spheres”—atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, geosphere, pedosphere, lithosphere, biosphere
  • Earth Science widely embraced term for the fields of science related to the planet Earth. “Earth science” is a broad term that encompasses four main branches of study, each of which is further broken down into more specialized fields.
  • Systems Geology emphasizes the nature of geology as a system – that is, as a set of interacting parts that function as a whole.
  • Systems Ecology is an interdisciplinary field of ecology, a subset of Earth system science, that takes a holistic approach to the study of ecological systems, especially ecosystems. Systems ecology can be seen as an application of general systems theory to ecology.
  • Systems Biology is the computational and mathematical analysis and modeling of complex biological systems.


  • Greenhouse – A structure with walls and roof made chiefly of transparent material, such as glass, in which plants requiring regulated climatic conditions are grown. These structures range in size from small sheds to industrial-sized buildings.
  • Polytunnel or Hoop House, is a tunnel made of polyethene, usually semi-circular in shape. solar radiation from the sun warms plants and soil, inside the building faster than heat can escape. Air warmed by the heat is retained in the building by the roofs and walls. Temperature, humidity and ventilation can be controlled by installed equipment or by manual opening and closing of flaps. Polytunnels are mainly used in temperate regions in similar ways to glass greenhouses and row covers.
  • Bioshelters: a solar greenhouse managed as an indoor ecosystem. A well-designed bioshelter, managed by human intelligence, can shelter a community of people, food crops, edible fish, and a diverse ecosystem of plants, animals and soil life.
  • Bioshelter: Greenhouse Youtube video of an Alaskan bioshelter
  • Heating a greenhouse with biomass Using biomass to heat a greenhouse
  • Root Zone Cooling and Heating Plant management through root temperature control and irrigation
  • Why Purchase a Green House? Video showing benefits of small scale greenhouses
  • Plant Nursery is a building with glass walls and roof used for the cultivation and exhibition of plants under controlled conditions, a place where plants are propagated and grown to usable size.
  • National Gardening Association online tools and support for gardeners
    Growing Underground Underground farming environments
  • Cornell Controlled Environment Agriculture CEA is an advanced and intensive form of hydroponically-based greenhouse agriculture


Hydroponics is the method of growing plants without soil, using mineral nutrient solutions in a water solvent. Terrestrial plants may be grown with only their roots exposed to the mineral solution, or the roots may be supported by an inert medium, such as perlite or gravel.

Hydroponics Container Farm Holding Strip


Aquaponics refers to any system that combines conventional aquaculture (raising aquatic animals such as snails, fish, crayfish or prawns in tanks) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment. In an aquaponic system, water from an aquaculture system is fed to a hydroponic system where the by-products are broken down by Nitrifying bacteria initially into nitrites and subsequently into nitrates, which are utilized by the plants as nutrients



Micro Greens

Micro-Greens are a small vegetable green that is used both as a visual and flavor component in food. Smaller than “baby greens,” and harvested later than “sprouts,” microgreens can provide a variety of leaf flavors, colors and textures. they are now considered a speciality genre of greens for garnishing salads, soups, plates, and sandwiches. They range in size from 1” to 3” including the stem and leaves. A microgreen has a single central stem which has been cut just above the soil line during harvesting. It has fully developed cotyledon leaves and usually has one pair of very small, partially developed true leaves. The average crop-time for most microgreens is 10–14 days from seeding to harvest.

Sprouting is the practice of germinating seeds to be eaten raw or cooked. Sprouts can be germinated at home or produced industrially. They are a prominent ingredient of the raw food diet and common in Eastern Asian cuisine.

LED Lights for Indoor Farming

Grow Light An artificial light source, generally an electric light, designed to stimulate plant growth by emitting a light appropriate for photosynthesis.

Photosynthetically Active Radiation or PAR, designates the spectral range (wave band) of solar radiation from 400 to 700 nanometers that photosynthetic organisms are able to use in the process of photosynthesis. This spectral region corresponds more or less with the range of light visible to the human eye.


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