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Hydropolis » Blog » How Does a Vertical Farm Work: Step by Step Guide
24.07.2023 Autor: Hydropolis

How Does a Vertical Farm Work: Step by Step Guide

Hydropolis » Blog » How Does a Vertical Farm Work: Step by Step Guide
Autor: Hydropolis

Vertical farming enables multi-level crop production. Technology makes it possible to achieve healthy and lush crops even in the middle of winter. What is this farming method and how does vertical farming work?  What are the benefits of vertical farming and how are they changing agriculture? Answers to these and other questions about vertical farms can be found in this article.

Source: Hydropolis

Growing Popularity of Vertical Farming

The concept of vertical farming was popularized at the beginning of the 21st century thanks to Dr. Dickson Despommier of Columbia University in the United States. The idea, born within the walls of an American university, is today revolutionizing agriculture worldwide.

What is vertical farming?

 The current way of vertical farming is radically different from the original concept. The use of LED lights and advanced automation to control environment systems is now the industry standard. Using this technology, the vertical farm can produce abundant yields all year round, thanks to the provision of optimal conditions for the plant species, regardless of climate and weather conditions.

Global population growth

According to the United Nations estimates, there are currently approximately 8 billion people living in the world[1]. By 2050, the population is projected to increase to 9.7 billion. Vertical farms are environmentally friendly and are expected to provide food for a larger population in the future.

How Does Vertical Farming Work?

The basic principle of vertical farming is to arrange plants vertically rather than horizontally. That solution saves lots of space without reducing productivity. Vertical farming therefore provides a solution to the problem of declining land suitable for growing crops. Vertical crop production is mostly indoors. A controlled environment system creates an optimal atmosphere for plants.

Vertical farming does not require soil. Depending on the farming method, water is supplied directly to the roots. That helps to save lots of water. The substrate is replaced by expanded clay, coconut fibers, hemp fibers, or rock wool. The cultivation area is cut off from external conditions by special hygienic sluices, so they are additionally protected from possible threats. 

Many vertical farming solutions are compatible with RES. They increase the energy efficiency of the solution and allow for faster returns on investment while reducing the carbon footprint. Reducing environmental impact is another of the significant advantages of a vertical farm.

Source: Hydropolis

How much does it cost to start a vertical farm?

The exact cost of starting vertical farming in a hydroponic system depends on several factors. Let’s explore some of them!

1. Building area:

Vertical farms in a hydroponic system can take place in warehouses or in other, for example urban spaces. Farms can also be set up inside shipping containers which, thanks to their size, can stand almost anywhere.

2. Plant Species:

Each plant requires specific conditions for proper growth. At Hydropolis, we have developed crop recipes that allow for a predictable production process.

3. Energy Costs:

Hydropolis farms are designed to minimize energy consumption costs. LED lights are among the most energy-efficient lighting solutions for vertical farming. The use of renewable energy sources, including heat pumps and photovoltaic panels, can provide additional savings.

Learn more about lighting in vertical farming

4. Chosen Technology:

Hydropolis provides turnkey solutions for vertical farms in a hydroponic system, including necessary equipment, software, and the knowledge required to start your own farm. The cost of the technology is calculated individually and depends on factors such as farm size and building requirements.

Craving knowledge?

Go to Calendly and schedule an appointment with us!

A vertical farm in a hydroponic system is a year-round agricultural business that operates independently of seasons and climate conditions. It offers a competitive way to produce plants and generate consistent profits. The cost of establishing a farm depends on various factors. We can provide precise calculations after receiving information about the planned farm size and the type of plants you intend to grow.

Source: Hydropnic cultivation, vertical farm R+D center, Hydropolis

Key Components in Vertical Farming

Currently, the most popular solutions for vertical farming are either shipping container farms or an indoor farming system. Regardless of the place of cultivation, certain elements are common to each of these solutions.

Multi-layer production shelves

Farming plants in vertically stacked layers, on specially designed structures (e.g., towers, growing shelves). The type of construction is chosen based on the building’s cubic area and the type of plant being cultivated. In Hydropolis technology, these can include multi-story racks, vertical carts or NFT channels. 

Artificial lighting

Controls the growth rate and flowering period of plants. However, this type of lighting differs from ordinary fluorescent lamps we use at home. Its uniqueness lies in the fact that the parameters of the lamps are selected depending on the plant. In vertical farming, the plant has all the necessary elements for proper growth, including the amount of light it receives at specific times and its spectrum, which varies depending on the selected plant species. The wavelengths of light, the intensity – all these factors influence the growth of the plant.

Hydropolis plants
Source: Hydropolis, Vertical farming lighting with LED lights 

Controlled environment

Farming conditions, such as temperature, humidity, gas concentration, nutrient conditions, hydration, and light intensity, are controlled and secure for optimal plant growth. A key aspect is ensuring uniform and optimal conditions throughout the cultivation area. On the vertical farm, we create repeatable conditions for plants. The cultivation cycle is replicated according to developed cultivation recipes for a specific plant species. This allows us to precisely plan the duration of cultivation, as well as the quantity and quality of produced food. This guarantees that each plant receives ideal conditions for healthy and rapid growth.

Nursery stations

Place of incubation and maturation of young seedlings. From there, they are transferred to vertically inclined surfaces. This production stage takes place in two forms: in cultivation cabinets or in specially separated rooms for larger crops. The plant spends the following days/weeks there until it reaches the appropriate weight and height, allowing it to be transferred to the main system.

Irrigation systems

On vertical farms use soilless irrigation systems for plants during the growth cycle. It supplies water rich with nutrients directly to the plant’s root. These systems are designed in a closed circuit, thus reducing water waste.

The irrigation process in vertical farming in our two systems, SMART CROP and Plantainer, is fully automated. Automation ensures that each plant maintains the appropriate irrigation, nutrient levels, oxygenation, temperature, pH, and EC. The water level is maintained at a constant level within a closed-loop system. However, the composition of the water changes depending on the plant’s growth stage, with varying amounts of micro and macro elements.

Plants growing Hydropolis
Source: Irrigation system, Nursery, Hydropolis  

Automationautomatic systems control entire farming process. Often use artificial intelligence or robots to assist in harvesting.

Automated Vertical Farm by Hydropolis

In Hydropolis vertical farming, cultivation automation ensures that all parameters are set at the appropriate level, providing the best conditions for plant growth.

The automation present in the cultivation is connected to software used for remote farm management. The Grow Wizard program allows for:

 Continuous monitoring of the growth conditions.
 Management of successive production stages.
 Planning for future cultivations.

Controlled agriculture combines sustainable resource utilization with production maximization. It minimizes human factors to a minimum. With modern solutions, it enables the delivery of healthy food in a faster time frame. Vertical farms can, therefore, be helpful in building a sustainable food production system.

Source: Hydropolis

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Farming in a Controlled Environment

Controlled Environment Agriculture is an integral part of vertical farming. It combines various technologies to achieve optimal conditions for plant growth.  

Temperature and airflow 

The temperature is automatically adjusted depending on the plant species. That helps create good conditions for growth. Airflow in vertical systems directs air through filtration systems, reduces humidity, removes heat, and circulates CO2. 

CO2 concentration 

An important part of controlled cultivation is CO2 concentration. It is an essential compound for plant photosynthesis. For this reason, even the slightest disturbance in the amount of the element supplied can adversely affect the entire cycle of plant development. 


In vertical cultivation, natural light is replaced by artificial lighting. This is the only source of illumination for the plants. The color, intensity, and duration of light affect plant growth and yield. In vertical farming, it is very important to choose the right light source, as each stage of plant development has different lighting requirements. 


For most plants, humidity levels should remain between 40 and 50%. Controlled cultivation technologies make it possible to achieve ideal parameters for the species grown. When levels rise or fall, the system automatically returns them to target levels. 

Nutrient solution dosing 

Proper nutrition is a key element in plant development. An automated nutrient solution dosing system monitors nutrient concentration levels in the tank: pH level, EC, and water temperature. In most cases, the dosing system is connected to the nutrient source via peristaltic pumps, which take the required nutrient dose and transport them to the tank. 

Indoor Pesticide Free-Farms

Vertical agriculture focuses on producing healthy food with a low water footprint. In vertical farms, there is no need for plant protection products such as pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides.

Plant Selection

Vertical farmers successfully grow lettuce, herbs, tomatoes, strawberries, flowers, mushrooms, or even algae. Some major players in the market are already testing opportunities to grow grains, rice, or even animal feed. When analyzing the possibilities of a crop, it’s worth considering the potential market. Check which products are most desirable, their prices, available throughout the year, etc.  

Hydroponics plants to grow

Hydropolis’ current solutions allow for the cultivation of low-growing leafy plants, such as:

 Lettuce: butterhead, romaine, batavia, curly, arugula
 Herbs: basil, mint, thyme

In Hydropolis, work is underway to develop cultivation algorithms for fruiting plants such as strawberries.

Source: Own study, Hydropolis

How does vertical farming help the environment?

 It supports sustainable development by maximizing food production while minimizing the use of natural resources.

 No seasonality – thanks to controlled conditions, the lettuce and other plants can be grown all year round. The farm operates independently of external weather conditions.

 Reduction of the water footprint – agriculture is responsible for up to 70% of water resource consumption[2]. In vertical farming, using Hydropolis solutions, up to 95% less water is consumed compared to conventional cultivation methods.

 Minimization of air pollution – the agricultural sector accounts for 23% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions[3].

How to invest in vertical farming?

Lots of reasons speak in favor of vertical farming. Contact us if you want to discuss how it can benefit your business. Our specialists will advise you on the best solution and help you to pick the right technology!

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[1] United Nations, Global Issue, Population,, [access: 11.07.2023]

[2] Distribution of the environmental impacts of food production worldwide, [access: 06.07.2023]

[3] Anaïs Marechal, How much greenhouse gases are emitted by agriculture?, [access: 06.07.2023]

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