Did you know that agriculture is the number one way people support their livelihoods around the world? It’s an extremely important industry and supports regional, global, and local economies. Unfortunately, due to variances in climate conditions, urban development, soil health, and soil quality – agriculture cannot be practiced everywhere.
That’s where indoor farming and indoor agriculture come in. Indoor farming can be both more sustainable and more rewarding than traditional farming, as different types of crops can be grown in areas or times of year that they couldn’t otherwise survive. Indoor farming can also improve crop yields and quality through space planning and optimization which isn’t possible with traditional farms.
In this article, we’ll highlight some of the best practices and important steps you can take to improve and enhance your indoor growing space.
Use Cultivation Layers to Optimize Indoor Spaces:
One of the best ways to optimize your indoor growing space is to use cultivation layers. Cultivation layers are multiple types of crops layered in such a way that they don’t interfere with each other’s growth, and in some cases enhance the growth of other nearby layers. Cultivation layers can be created through the creative use of root vegetables, groundcover, vines or climbing plants, herbs, shrubs, subcanopy plants, and canopy plants.
Rooted or underground plants: Root vegetables and other underground plants are an easy way to use more of the space underneath your soil. They also serve as nutrient pools that improve soil health and fertility. Some common examples of these plants include onions, tubers, carrots, and potatoes. Spreading the residues of these plants on the topsoil and subsurface layers also helps to improve the physical, chemical, and biological properties of your soil.
Groundcover plants: These plants are good at providing shade to the soil, which helps to maintain soil moisture contents, without blocking sunlight from other plants. Groundcover plants are especially good for nitrogen fixation, allowing growers to avoid the expense and labor of adding synthetic nitrogen fertilizers to maintain soil health.
Climbing or vining plants: Vines and other climbing plants want to grow vertically naturally and are excellent choices for space-saving in indoor farming structures. Vining plants can be easily grown in conjunction with canopy and sub-canopy plants. Examples of climbing plants include several fruits such as passion fruit, kiwis, and grapes, and vegetables such as snap peas, tomatoes, cucumbers, nasturtiums, loofah, and many more!
Herbaceous plants: Herbs frequently are shorter than other plants, and are often grown for both medicinal properties and as edible plants. They can grow well in the spaces among the other high growing, low growing, and climbing plants we’ve already listed.
Shrubs: Shrubs are tall, annual growers, and can grow significantly larger to aid in landscaping, or adding texture, color, and foliage to your growing space.
Subcanopy plants: Subcanopy plants are shorter than canopy plants, and can easily grow in the presence of shade and partial shade of canopy plants. They can provide additional space for vines to grow, and can provide a variety of fruits.
Canopy plants: Canopy plants are the tallest of the group, and produce great shade while growing quickly. Some examples of these canopy plants include timber species, nut trees, and fully grown fruit trees.
Use Cultivation Layers to Optimize Indoor Spaces:
Vertical space optimization is generally regarded as the most popular monoculture-based conventional model. Growers can easily use their ground space in monoculture systems, but adding other cultivation layers of vertical plants can improve productivity significantly.
One of the biggest barriers to growing multiple species in one vertical space is lack of education. Most traditional farmers are unaware that a multitude of plant species can grow well with each other, without negatively impacting yield. It is important to note that some plant species can easily grow well together, while certain plant species may affect the growth of other nearby plants through their release of specific chemicals, or due to lack of access to light or water.
Vertical space optimization pairs well with triangular spacing, which can optimize the number of plants per square foot. With appropriate planning, it’s possible to grow many different species of plants in one vertical space, which help to improve cooling, humidity, and shade. Growers who are optimizing their vertical space must manage the use of dehumidifiers, aeration systems, natural sunlight (if feasible), and grow lights.
Optimize Horizontal Space
Horizontal space optimization in indoor farming is just as important as vertical space optimization and can help to produce better results on a sustainable basis. Horizontal space optimization can both improve the aesthetics of your operation while also maximizing production potential. In this optimization, specific crops can be planted geometrically to create a grid.
Planting seeds at a specific angle from the other seeds in a grid or triangle pattern helps to produce higher plant density. These strategies can give indoor growers 35-40% more crops than an exclusively vertical farm. One of the biggest benefits of optimizing horizontal space for indoor growing is reduced water evaporation, which helps to maintain optimal soil moisture levels.
This can also improve productivity due to improved soil structure and fertility. Improving vegetation density on the soil also helps to minimize weeds, reducing the need for synthetic weed-killers dramatically.
Using Both Vertical and Horizontal Systems
Indoor farming space can be divided into two major sections, such as a cultivation area and a nursery station. Nursery stations can be specifically used for seed sowing, germination, and incubating younger plants horizontally in two irrigated troughs. Cultivated areas can be adjusted upward to optimize the growth of older plants. The strategic utilization of space helps to reduce germination costs and transportation expenses.
The concept of optimizing the vertical and horizontal space in indoor growing systems is equally important for city dwellers, professional growers, and beginners. A combination of soil-based growth media and soilless growing media can also be used to improve crop growth and production.
The continued use and optimization of indoor growing operations can help to reduce food insecurity and malnutrition across the globe. Because indoor growing requires a significant amount of technology, the active engagement of researchers, governments, and scientific communities is extremely important for its continued success.
RedBudSaaS is a Greenhouse Management Software that provides actionable data so you can increase crop production and make controlled environment agriculture more efficient than ever. From pest management and equipment maintenance to task assignment and space allocation, RedBud’s integrated platform was built by growers for growers to improve operational efficiencies, while ensuring regulatory compliance.
Grow your plants and your business with Redbud. Get started with a free demo today to watch Redbud in action.