Vertical agricultural costs vary due to a variety of factors. When starting your own farm, you should have an idea of what it takes to spend money on it so that you can budget accordingly.
Vertical farming cultivates crops rather than develops, allowing farmers to grow more plants per square meter than traditional cultivation methods.
How much space do you need for vertical Indoor Farming?
In vertical farming, if you mean hydroponics in a highly controlled environment, it would take 500 to 1,000 square feet.
Comparing Space Needed On Vertical farm To Conventional Farm
Each mature head lettuce plant is about 0.65 square feet apart. A farming area of 500-1000 square feet can yield 500-1000 square feet / 0.65 square feet = 769-1515 lettuces in Vertical farming and if you while outdoor farming need 1.25 square feet apart. So, outdoor growing space of 500 – 1000 square feet/1.25 square feet can only yield 400 – 800 lettuces.
With the above calculation, we can argue that vertical farming is 30 to 45 times more productive because it is more productive per square meter and produces crops faster (often less than half the time of on-farm farming).
Comparing Harvesting Time in Vertical Farm to Conventional Farm
Lettuce grows quite quickly in typical farming. Leaf varieties reach maturity in 30 days but can be harvested once they reach the desired size. Other lettuce varieties take 6 to 8 weeks to reach full harvest size. Meanwhile, it only takes 18 to 21 days (three weeks) for your lettuce to be ready to harvest individual leaves in hydroponics.
An Estimate For the Space Needed To Start Vertical Farm Compare to Conventional Farm
Vertical farming requires less space than outdoor farming since the farm can be built vertically with multiple layers. Vertical layers vary based on the production scale, but the most common layer of small scales is 3 layers. According to the lettuce example above, 1.25 square foot space in traditional farming is equivalent to 0.65 square feet of space in vertical farming.
Now, if you’re using 3 layers of vertical farming system we can say that, you have 0.65 square feet space to plant 3 lettuces. Therefore, 1.25 square feet on outdoor farm will yield 1 lettuce while 0.65square feet on 3 layers vertical farming will produce (0.65 * 3) lettuces.
How Much Does it Cost To Start and Maintain A Vertical Farm?
The facility you choose for your business will largely determine your start-up costs. Larger operations require more of everything, and more money is needed for that.
If you plan to start a small farm on land you own and pay for, for instance, an extra bedroom, a garage, or a storage container, the amenity won’t cost too much.
Aside from the facility, the equipment will generate much of the cost of vertical farming. The equipment includes lighting, CEA technology, pH tools, shelves, and any other equipment you need for your specific system. For example, farmers in hydroponics are likely to need water pumps and pipes.
Also, consider the quantity and quality of your devices.
The more you need, the more expensive it will be. In addition, high-tech devices have a higher price. Make sure you have a budget for the materials you will need to actually start planting. This includes growing media, nutrient solutions, and seeds. In aquaponics, consider the cost of fish and their food.
You may also need a permit to operate your farm, which may require you to pay a fee. Before you start, make sure you know the local zoning laws.
Start-up costs for Aquaponics
How much does it cost to start Aquaponics? The cost of starting an aquaponics system depends on the equipments and the amount required to commission the system. Aquaponic equipments mainly need tanks and pipes to transport feedwater from one part of the system to another.
The fish produce the waste material, which contains ammonia. Bacteria then first break down the ammonia into nitrites and then into nitrates, which are then used by the plants.
This entire process takes place within the confines of tanks, vessels, and pipelines. So let’s take a look at the equipments needed to build an aquaponic system.
Main Equipments in Aquaponic System
- Mechanical filter
- Plant surface (grow beds / DWC / NFT)
- Plant seedlings
- water pump
- Air pump
- Air stones
- Mesh cup
- Plant holder
- PVC ball valves
- 1 1/2 inch PVC pipes
- ½ inch PVC pipes
- Biofilter media
- Water test kit
- ½ inch unseals
- 1 ½ inch unsealed
- Fish food
- Emergency air pump
- Extra nutrients (iron, magnesium, phosphate)
The list is long, and many of the larger equipments can be made from recycled products.
Larger equipments in Aquaponic System-
Here’s a sequential breakdown of the purpose of the larger equipments as they are arranged in an aquaponic system.
Contains the pump that circulates the water through the system
Contains the fish and usually includes an air stone or two to provide oxygen
Mechanical filter –
Separates and removes the heavier waste material from the fish
Contains biomedia that creates a large surface for the beneficial Nitrobacter bacteria. This is where the nitrification process takes place.
Plants Area –
This is where the plants grow and the plant system can consist of three popular types
- Grow beds
- Deepwater Culture (DWC)
- Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)
There are other techniques such as
- Aeroponics – spraying the roots with nutrient water
- Wick system – use a wick to draw nutrient-rich water to the roots of the plant.
- Drip system – nutrient-rich water can drip into the roots of the plant.
A breakdown of the peripheral equipments –
- Water Pump – Used to circulate water through the system
- Air Pump – Used to provide oxygen to fish, plants, and bacteria
- Air stones – divides the air into fine bubbles in the water
- Mesh cup – the plants are placed in this and allowed to grow.
- Plant Holders – These hold the plants in place in the mesh cups
- Biofilter Media – This is the medium that enters the biofilter container and creates a large surface area where the bacteria can thrive.
- Water Test Kit – This is a test kit used to test the water for pH, nitrite, nitrate, and ammonia levels.
- Uniseals – These are rubber washers that create a flexible watertight seal when connecting PVC pipes and other aquaponic equipments. It is an improved replacement for a partition.
- Ball Valves – These are used to control the water flow in the system.
The other small equipments not mentioned speak for themselves
Breakdown of the cost of equipments in a small aquaponics system
Cost Breakdown of Components in a Small Scale Aquaponic System
|PVC Ball Valves
|1 1/2 inch pvc piping
|1/2 inch pvc piping
|Water Test Kit
|½ inch Uniseals
|1 ½ inch uniseals
|Backup air pump
The total cost of a small aquaponics setup is in the $ 1,400 range and will be higher when you factor in transportation and labor costs.
Note: This is a general guide to starting an aquaponic system. The costs depend on your geographic location.
If you build this system yourself, you will save labor costs. I will recommend that you make this system yourself as it will give you an idea of how it works.
Should something go wrong, you know how to fix it without calling anyone. Here you would save a lot of labor costs.
Start-up Cost For Hydroponic Farming System?
When it comes to starting hydroponics as a hobby, the most common question I ask myself is “How much do hydroponic systems cost?” The best answer is to spend as much as you want. While you can build your own, it is often more convenient, and sometimes cheaper, to just buy a hydroponic system rather than track down the various parts and consumables.
You don’t have to buy an expensive hydroponic system to do hydroponics. There are several options when looking for inexpensive hydroponic systems under $ 150. Cheap hydroponic systems are great for those learning hydroponics or who only have a small area to garden. While these systems are cheap, it doesn’t mean they won’t work properly. Inexpensive hydroponic systems can be easy to use and produce great results.
Buying a cheap hydroponic system doesn’t mean you only have to grow a few plants.
There are three levels of hydroponic systems:
Low-tech hydroponic systems are either budget options that are bought as a unit or do-it-yourself constructions.
You can get a low-tech hydroponic system for about $ 50 to $ 200. The construction costs for a small DIY project are about the same.
Middle tech systems
Middle-tech hydroponic systems are commercially available systems that can be installed indoors or outdoors. They usually come with lighting and some advanced technology such as controlling the water flow.
These hydroponic systems cost between $ 300 and $ 1,000, depending on size and features.
High-tech hydroponic systems include a complete control panel. These are best suited for farmers who want to produce large quantities of crops for a profit. High-tech hydroponic systems can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
In addition to technology, there are factors to consider at every level.
Four main factors influence price estimates:
Different types of hydroponic systems require different equipments and maintenance.
For example, if you want to build an NFT (nutrient film) system, you need a water pump, but not the wicking technology.
In addition, the type of system can affect your recurring costs.
For example, if your system has been restored or not, it will affect your monthly water bills. Recovery systems recycle water, but non-recovery systems do not. As a result, recovery systems use less water.
The cheapest, low-end option would be the Kratky method, which requires only hydroponic base materials and an opaque container with openings for the plants.
Size of the system
The size of your system plays a big part in determining the cost of hydroponic systems.
If your hobby is farming, a smaller, cheaper system will suffice. If you are trying to produce a high volume, you will need a larger system that is more expensive.
In addition, the type of harvest you want will affect the size of your system.
Some systems in which plants normally share nutrient water are only compatible with one plant species per system. So if you want to diversify your choices, you need multiple systems.
You should also consider whether you have room for a vertical or horizontal system.
Vertical systems can produce more per square foot than horizontal systems, but they can be more expensive as they are usually considered high-tech.
The amount of control you have over your hydroponic system also affects the price.
Better control over things like temperature, water pressure, and humidity increases costs in several ways.
First, if you want to include controlled environment farming technology in your hydroponic system, it will increase the amount you spend on energy each month.
Plus, you’ll have to spend more on maintenance as higher quality systems may require specialized expertise and parts to fix if something goes wrong. While lesser quality systems can be easily swapped out if necessary.
However, little environmental control has its own costs.
Having your hydroponic system off-site puts you at greater risk of plant loss due to weather conditions, pests, and disease. Replacing damaged equipment costs money, not to mention lost profits due to dead crops.
All of the additional materials you will need for your hydroponic system are in addition to the system itself.
Do-it-yourself systems add up these costs, so you only need to consider recurring costs such as nutrient solutions and growing medium.
However, pre-built hydroponic systems may require additional labor to install or may not be ready to use out of the box.
Even if the hydroponic system has everything it needs to function properly, you may still need to separately purchase growing media, nutrient solutions, a pH meter, and lighting to actually grow plants.
The lighting itself can cost 20 or hundreds of dollars depending on its size, quality, and quantity.
You should also consider whether you already have room for a hydroponic system. If not, you may need to buy or rent new real estate for your farm.
With all of these factors in mind, you can calculate how much hydroponic systems will cost your operation.
Start-up Cost For Aeroponics Farming?
While many ready-to-use aeroponics kits are widely available, some enjoy the challenge of building their own yard from scratch.
The whole idea of aeroponics is to grow plants in a closed or partially closed environment and then spray the plants with a nutrient-rich solution. This method of growing plants focuses on filling the plant with nutrients while reducing the incidence of diseases and pests.
To get started, you’ll need a container that will act as an enclosure for your DIY air garden and also keep pests out. Look for a plastic storage container that is suitable for your purpose.
High-pressure water pump
Since most high-pressure systems use pressures of 80 psi or more, you will need a high-pressure water pump that can work in this range. A high-pressure pump needs to be able to atomize water to the level we want for an effective air garden.
There are two main systems for aeroponic gardening: low pressure and high pressure. The former is loved in the DIY community because it’s reasonably priced and doesn’t require a lot of work. The latter costs you a little more, but has the advantage that the water is atomized instead of atomized. In fact, by atomizing the water droplets, the plant is more effectively sprayed with nutrients.
You can buy a professional high-pressure pump online that can handle pressures up to 100 psi for about $ 70.
The basic function of a pre-pressure storage tank is to ensure that the pump does not have to run continuously to keep the entire mist/mist system running continuously.
If you do not run the pump continuously, you will extend its service life and reduce your energy costs. The price for the battery tank is about 80 US dollars.
An electromagnet is a start/stop valve that controls the flow of water in the system and enables continuous pressure. You can buy a magnet that is dustproof for around $ 40.
You will also need a pressure switch to tell the pump what pressure to turn on or off at. Please note that you do not need this device if the pump you have purchased has a built-in pressure switch. Some pumps are built-in, others must be purchased separately. The pressure switch costs about $ 25.
The final step in making a nebulizer device is the nebulizers themselves. Aerosols are usually purchased in packs of six or twelve. There are hobby websites that sell this one by one, but buying them in bulk is cheaper and rarely requires just one nozzle. With a high-pressure pumping system, make sure you get nebulizers with a full cone design. Spray nozzles start at around $ 40.
Accessories for hoses and pipes
This includes hoses and other accessories that complete the entire system. For the tubing, you will need about 7.5 m of black vinyl tubing (1 “or 3/4”). Try to order these equipments all at the same time in the same place to reduce shipping costs. The hose and pipe accessories can cost $ 40 or more.
For $ 300 you can start a small aeroponics farm as a hardware store, except for some other farm equipment.
What Are The Operating costs for indoor vertical farming?
Vertical farms consume a lot of energy, especially when artificial light is the only light source for the plants.
Small vertical farms spend an average of $ 3.45 per square foot on energy, while large vertical farms spend an average of $ 8.02 per square foot. Small farms are amenities that are less than 10,000 square feet, while large farms are anything bigger.
Energy costs also depend on the efficiency of the lamps.
Lamps with a higher efficiency produce more light with less electricity and cost less in the long run. However, they usually have a higher starting price.
Labor is another recurring expense for vertical farming.
Even small farms need workers to run them. The big question is whether you are going to do it all yourself or hire someone else to do it.
The salary and benefits you give your employees and how much you employ affect the amount you pay for the work.
Indoor vertical farms typically spend 56% of their operating budget on labor, about $ 20.78 per square foot.
You also need to consider the cost of materials such as growing media, seeds, and nutrient solutions, which typically make up 11% of a vertical farm’s budget.
Whatever your goals, don’t forget to budget based on your system and startup costs.
Some Actual Facts On The Cost of Indoor Vertical Farm
Here are 15 quick statistics on the costs and benefits of the indoor vertical hydroponic system from an indoor growing report by the Artemis plant management platform.
- Small vertical farms (less than 10,000 square feet) spend an average of $ 3.45 per square meter on energy, which equates to 12% of the total cost of ownership.
- In comparison, large indoor vertical farms (over 10,000 square feet) spend an average of $ 8.02 per square foot on energy, which is 25% of the total cost of ownership.
- Small hydroponics spend an average of 6% of the total cost of ownership on seeds, growing media, and nutrients.
- Conversely, large hydroponic companies spend an average of 13% of their total cost of ownership on seeds, growing media, and nutrients.
- Hydroponic grow systems have an average yield of $ 21.15 per square foot.
- Vertical growth systems average $ 41.16 per square foot, but that number can range from $ 2.13 to $ 100.
- Only 27% of the indoor vertical farms are profitable. Half of all container farms are now profitable.
- Hydroponic systems benefit about 60% of the time regardless of the structure in which they are used.
- Leafy greens such as lettuce are the most profitable plants to grow in hydroponic systems because they are among the lowest cost of ownership. A square foot of lettuce costs about $ 20.
- All hydroponic flower growers reported having profitable farms.
- Only 7% of the covered farms are container farms, probably due to the newness of the technology.
- 75% of farms using a combination of farming systems have not been profitable, which means it is best to stick to just one system, such as hydroponics.
- Leafy vegetables and microgreens are grown hydroponically and have the highest profit margins at 40%.
- On average, after operating expenses, profitable indoor vertical farms earn $ 14.88 per square foot.
- Labor costs are usually the highest operating cost for any indoor operation. A small hydroponic farm spends an average of 57% of its budget on work.
The type of plant that grows and the height of the plant determines the amount of space required for an indoor farm. The capital and operating costs for indoor cultivation also vary depending on the type of system and the size of the farm. The first expense is to buy the system itself or all the materials necessary for its construction.
You may need to buy pipes, pumps, and hoses. You will also need to buy lighting fixtures so that your plants have a light source they can use for photosynthesis. During photosynthesis, plants absorb energy from light to produce glucose from carbon dioxide and water. Because of this, there are many LED lamps on the market, especially for growing plants. Look for highly efficient light bulbs to save energy.
Disclaimer: The facts and figures in this article are in no way or 100% accurate, we have used them for guidance and calculation purposes only! Do your own research and know the correct numbers based on your research. Thanks!