Vertical Hydroponic Farming Systems:
The following details are about Vertical Hydroponic Farming or Vertical Soilless Farming.
Vertical Gardening is the best idea if don’t have enough horizontal space. Vertical Gardening is the best idea that can start in a compact area like indoor walls, front yard walls, terraces, backyards, balconies and terraces. Vertical Gardening is a concept of growing plants in by stacking multiple layers of planting surfaces. Vertical Gardening is not a new concept, it is ancient procedure. In olden the people used to grow flowers, shrubs, herbs in tiered gardens.
And Hydroponics is the process of soilless cultivation of plants. In Hydroponics the plants are grown in nutrient solution that supplies food for the plants instead of soil. In the production of rate of plants grown in Hydroponics are high, as the stress of searching nutrients from the soil is less for roots and then keep complete strength in production.
Now let’s see what if we combine both vertical gardening and hydroponic gardening, this becomes a vertical hydroponics farming system. In vertical hydroponics farming system, there are several stacked levels with planting pockets. And the plants are grown at each level. It can be an option for people gardening or farming in a compact area with good water resource and electric facility.
The main drawback for normal vertical gardening over hydroponic vertical gardening is its weight, using soil for growing plants will increase the weight of the vertical system. Hydroponic reduces the weight at least by 30%, means using hydroponic you can grow more plants in the same compact area with the same weight. The main requirement for a hydroponic system is a constant supply of water enriched with nutrient along with good air circulation and light. When it comes vertical hydroponic system in indoors, you should make light arrangement to provide necessary light for the growth of a healthy plant.
Advantages of Vertical Hydroponic Gardening System:
- Space: Space plays a key role gardening, for the people who are running out of space vertical gardening could be the best option. Vertical garden doesn’t take much area, these systems can build in small indoor areas, compact balconies and front yards.
- Soilless Farming: Soilless farming is the main advantage of vertical hydroponic farming system. Soilless farming will keep the plant away from the weeds, disease, and pests that come from the soil. This makes vertical farming the lightest and easiest form of vertical gardening.
- High Productivity: In Vertical Hydroponic farming, you can grow more plants compared to horizontal gardening, in a space required for one plant in horizontal gardening you can grow 3 plants in the vertical hydroponic system. And with proper supply of nutrient and light, plants grow more efficient and healthy with high productivity.
- Low maintenance cost: Vertical hydroponic system is built with a nutrient solution flow system, in which the water will be l circling to and fro. This system will remove the wastage of precious resources and nutrients. This is a completely automated system which reduces the maintenance.
Disadvantages Vertical Hydroponic Farming System:
There some problems that a gardener can face while using vertical hydroponic farming system. Below are some problems faced by vertical hydroponic farming.
- Light Requirements: to solve the light issues in outdoor vertical gardening farming system can be solved by a staggered design. Staggered design means each layer is stacked above each other for proper lighting. In case of indoors, it’s tough to provide sufficient for each plant, you need to install grow lights for each layer to provide adequate light for each plant.
- Water Supply: For vertical hydroponic systems with a single level of plants, delivering water to plants at the same level is not a tough job. But in case when the plants are stacked, the supply of water to the upper levels need powered water pumps. The system should be designed in a systematic way so that upper get sufficient water and lower levels should not be overwatered.
- Investment: Even though vertical hydroponics have many advantages like growing many plants in a short time, but when it comes to the cost of investment, cost depends on the number of plants. And usage of motors for water supply and grow lights can consume good amount of electricity. And water in flow system should be monitored constantly as the water is the main base for the plants in the hydroponic, a small disturbance can damage the plants instantly.
- Cooling and Ventilation: In Vertical Hydroponic Farming System, all the plants are packed together, so there is a need for a cooling system. Using LED grow lights can reduce the necessity of cooling systems.
Lights System in Vertical Hydroponic Farming System:
In vertical hydroponics farming system, the plants grown both upwards and towards the light source. When the plants just grow upwards as it is their nature to grow, and in most vertical hydroponics systems the light sources are placed above the plants. In a vertical hydroponics farming system, plants grown in at an angle of 45 degrees, this angle make them suitable growing above each without any obstruction.
Vertically Mounted lights in Vertical Hydroponic Farming system: the many vertical hydroponic farming system the lights are placed at the center of the growing system mounted vertically. The light mounted vertically, and growing plants around the growing lights will helps the light to plants efficiently. This also helps the inefficiencies of reflecting light downwards. In a vertical hydroponics farming system with a vertically mounted growing bulb plant receives light directly from the bulb and promoted growth of plant efficiently. And the amount of light received by the plant depends on the distance light from the growing system. This could be easy to setup growing system around the set of CFL bulbs or around a hanging fluorescent lights. Some use dual HID to maximize the production rate, but these growing lights are expensive. A vertical hydroponics growing system requires 400 W HID light to provide sufficient lights.
Cooling System in Vertical Hydroponic Farming System:
If using HID grow lights, the generate lots of heat, which harms the plants. For an efficient growing system, the plants should be placed close to the lights. As the plants receive good amount of light when the placed near, as per the square law. With HID central light, we need a good cooling system. A small machine called cool tube, it is used as a ventilation for vertical HID systems. There many types of cool tubes are available, these cool tube use reflectors to keep heat away from the plants. These reflectors prevent plants from UV lights, and decreases the oil production and terpene content.
Using full spectrum LED grow lights, which don’t produce heat like HID lights. In any vertical system with central grow lights, place a fan under the grow light which is the best source of ventilation.
Light Options in Vertical Hydroponic Farming System:
there are many different types of light sources in vertical hydroponic farming systems. Not all the systems use central lighting systems. Some hydroponic systems use vertical light along the walls of plants. But these systems don’t provide efficient light to plants as central mounted grow lighting systems. Use them depending on the space requirements.
Instead of these artificial light, try to build the vertical system in indoors where you can receive up to 7 to 8 hours of sunlight near windows and balconies or build them in outdoor like balconies. Natural sunlight is the best source for the plants, whether grown vertically or horizontally. Natural light shows a great impact on the growth of plants.
How does a Vertical Hydroponic Farming System work?
There are several models of vertical hydroponic farming techniques were available like ebb and flow and nutrient film technique (NFT). NFT is the best and easiest technique for its unique dynamic system.
In NFT (Nutrient Film Technique) we have a constant thin stream of water (nutrient solution) flowing over the root system below the plants. This hydroponic system is a closed, constant flow system, which makes it suitable for a vertical hydroponic farming tower design.
Vertical Hydroponic Farming Tower:
In this typical vertical hydroponic farming tower, the main technique is to use a tube system with a pump setup, to get water delivered to the top layers. And from there with the use of gravity to channel the water flows back to the reservoir. There is an option to use either single or multiple tubes to deliver nutrient solution to different layers of the plants. With the help of multiple tubes, you can supple water and nutrients optimally to different layers.
In DIY designs, the hydroponic system use PVC pipes or thicker draining pipes for the central tower. And these pipes are drilled at interval to house the individual plants. The plants are usually inserted in the net cups that allow the flow of water through the root systems. In the vertical hydroponic farming tower, the plants grow at an angle of 45 degrees.
Zig-ZAG Hydroponic Farming System:
Another common model of vertical hydroponics systems different from vertical tower design. And in case of outdoor vertical hydroponic farming system outdoor designs, we use multiple PVC pipes arranged on a trellis frame at diagonal angles. These PVC pipes are usually in a compact zig-zag pattern arranged diagonally. And the plants are inserted on the plants net cups, placed at regular 90-degree angles.
In this Zig-ZAG Hydroponic Farming System, we use NFT techniques to grow the plants. The water with nutrients is flowing on to the top pipe, from where it flows down in a constant stream. In case of indoor vertical hydroponic farming, artificial lighting is a major concern. Since the plants in a tower vertical system are placed at an angle, using grow lights could be the best option to supply sufficient.
Panels hanging from the top may not be ideal thought, as the plants are at different heights and sizes. The best way to circumvent is by using multiple vertically mounted lights to cover all the growing surfaces uniformly.
How to set up a Vertical Hydroponic Farming System:
To set up a vertical Hydroponic farming tower we need the following material: A large PVC pipe (3” or greater diameter)
- Cap: End cap for the pipes.
- Large container, that can hold a minimum 5 to 6 gallons of nutrient solution with a lid.
- Net pots, depending on number of plants.
- Submersible pumps.
- Vinyl hose with a ½ inch diameter of the pump.
- Loctite PVC Epoxy
- LED Grow lights or HID lights as per the requirement
And some other requirements like basic tool:
- A miter saw (or a hand saw should do the trick)
- Jig Saw with fine blades.
- Tape measure.
- One drill and small drill bits as per the requirements.
- Pencil and paper.
Steps of Construction of Hydroponic Farming System:
- We need a 5-gallon container of the tub as a reservoir to store nutrient solution. A PVC pipe will be placed into the tub by drilling an appropriate sized hole with a suitable lid.
- And the length of the pipe depends on the height of the ceiling in the indoor grow area. Five feet height can be an ideal height and That could be a best choice.
- Now mark the pipes with slots which are used to net cup that are used to grow plants. For this purpose, use the entire 360-degree surface area of the pipe.
- The holes drilled into the sides of the cup should be large enough to house one net cup. And the size of the net cups should be designed according to the size of the main PVC pipe.
- Cut smaller PVC pipes to make holders for the net cups. Stick these to the sides of the main pipe to create 45-degree angled planters.
- Use motors or tubing to supply nutrient solution to the top of the tower. In case of a rain tower system, the water then drains down through the inside of the pipe, supplies nutrients to all the plants.
Types of plants grown using vertical hydroponic farming system:
Select the plants that grow faster, herbs and shrubs can be best solution.
Grow the leafy vegetables like:
- Mustard greens.
- Collard Greens.
And can grow the plant like:
- Flowers: roses, marigold, lilies, tulips and succulent plants.
Some Fruits and veggies can also be grown. These include:
- Ball Peppers.
Popular Vertical Hydroponic Farming Systems:
Ready made grow systems are available in the market at all budget. Just select the suitable one considering the size and budget.
Buddha Box Vertical Hydroponic Farming system:
It is commercial vertical hydroponic gardening system, with a 5/5 grow tent kit. It is from SurperCloset designed with EBB and Flow-set-up called verticalponics.
Feature of Buddha Box Vertical Hydroponic Farming system:
- Size: 5inch width and 5 inches depth with 6 inches height.
- Hydroponic method used: Ebb and Flow along with Aeroponics.
- Number of plants grown with this farming system: 48 plants.
- Cooling system: this farming kit comes with a supercool lighting cool tube that controls the temperature.
- Lighting system: Dual 400W full spectrum HPS grow lights.
- Air: this farming system is built-in with ECO air commercial air pump.
- Water pump: it has a small water pump with 1/150 oil filled motor.
Large Buddha Box Vertical Hydroponic Farming systems are also available in the market. Which suitable for growing more plants and even occupies more area.
Agrowtent Vertical Hydroponic Farming system:
This vertical farming system comes in two different sizes, single and double. This system has a solid tubular frame mounted on wheels for easy movement.
Features of Agrowtent Vertical Hydroponic Farming system:
- Size of the farming system: 5” Width and 34” Depth and 83” heigh
- Lighting System – lighting systems is optional in this model as it movable, can be moved to outdoor and indoor as per the light requirement. In case of in case of grow light, it need 600W Grow Light System.
- Hydroponic Method– Top Feed Drip System
- Number of Plants– can grow about 140 plants in a single system, and 280 plants in a double system.
It is a sturdy vertical system for Rockwool slabs. It comes with supports, reservoirs, and drip system. It doesn’t have any have pumps, light or ventilation systems.
- Size– Height 6’ – Diameter 4’2” for 18 slabs.
- Lighting System (Optional) – Dual 600W HID Grow Light Kit can be used if you need grow lights.
- Hydroponic Method – this system is built up with Top Feed Drip System.
- Number of Plants – 18 slab growing unit can grow 108 plants, and a 24 Slab growing unit can grow 144 plants.
The Pi Pack Growing Unit:
It is a latest vertical hydroponic growing unit, comes with a modular design comes with medium budget farmers. This growing system can hold the plants in container of size 3.5 l. Each plant is separately fed and wastage is individually drained which eliminates the spread of diseases. This growing kit comes with pipes, hoses, containers, and sprinklers. And lighting and ventilation systems use on your own.
Features of Pi Pack Growing Unit:
- Size: a full system comes with a Height 85” and Diameter 87”
- Lighting System– Lighting system is optional, but you can use on our own, it requires 600W HID Grow Light Kit with Cool Tubes
- Hydroponic Method: this farming system uses Top Feed Drip System
- Number of Plants: a full pi pack farming unit can grow 320 plants.
Foody Vertical Gardens 12 Hydroponic Farming Unit: Best for indoor gardening. Feature of Foody Vertical Gardens 12 Hydroponic Farming Unit:
- Size – the height for growing system is 48″.
- Lighting System – this doesn’t come with light system, you can use on your own.
- Hydroponic Method –this growing system used Deep Water Culture hydroponic method.
- Number of Plants –it can grow up to 44 plants.
- Base Reservoir: size of the reservoir is: 19″ diameter; Growing Pods: 12″ diameter.
- Total water holding capacity: holding capacity of the reservoir is: 12 gallons.
- Weight: total weight of the unit 24 lbs.
Green Diamond AeroSystems Vertical Hydroponic Farming System:
Features of Green Diamond AeroSystems:
- Size– 16 square feet.
- Lighting System – optional.
- Hydroponic Method–It uses Aeroponics hydroponic method.
- Number of Plants– it can grow up to 120 plants
Vertical Hydroponic is best gardening method for who do not have access to the soil to grow plants. Vertical grow systems can increase the production in compact areas. Commercial growing kits are available in the market, so there is no trouble of constructing. Ease of maintenance increases the success rate of vertical hydroponic farming systems in urban areas. High Investment and complexity can be main disadvantage, but the high benefits can outweigh these drawbacks. Vertical Hydroponic Farming is the sustainable future farming technique.