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How indoor cultivators can save on labour & energy costs

Lucy Starley
October 21, 2021
5 min read
An inside view of a large commercial greenhouse
An inside view of a large commercial greenhouse
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Commercial indoor farming is traditionally labour and energy-intensive, but it doesn’t need to be…

To create and maintain a successful commercial indoor growing enterprise, it is essential to balance all the inputs and outputs related to your business. This can often be a delicate and all-consuming task. As your operation develops it can be difficult to see where savings can be made, without cutting corners and risking the health and quality of your harvests.

With some carefully planned actions and tweaks to your working practices there are many opportunities to save time, energy and money, whilst still growing a high-quality product. In some cases, the savings can even improve the quantity and quality of the plants that your operation produces.

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Labour

This is often one of the highest costs associated with commercial growing businesses. Whether it is a conventional outdoor farm or an indoor growing set-up, commercial growing operations often cover vast spaces and require a large team to keep the operation running efficiently.

Traditionally, growing produce of any kind has required a lot of physical observation, monitoring, recording and also a good dose of experimentation. With advancements in technology, all of these vital tasks can be supported to become more accurate and efficient without taking away the need for human skill and knowledge.

Human labour comes with all sorts of uncertainties, no matter how skilled your team is. Your business is likely to face issues such as staff turnover, wage increases, absences and human error at some time or other. All of these variables have cost implications and unless these are carefully budgeted for, they can cause pressure and stress.

Investing in smart-agri technology that works alongside your human team is a great way to alleviate some of these pressures. Technology such as Grow Sensors can work hand in hand with your team, providing a learning opportunity and a way to unite your team over one source of data and insight. A confident and knowledgeable team is naturally going to be more efficient and dedicated to improving the end products that your business produces.

An added bonus is that technology works 24-7 without the need for lunch breaks or holidays, and it’s probably not going to ask for a pay rise either!

Grow space optimisation

As with any form of agriculture, indoor growing requires a certain amount of equipment. Maintaining the ideal environmental conditions for your crops is vital and often this means investing in several different types of equipment, from lighting systems to HVAC and more.

As we expand and develop our grow spaces it can be tempting to go for a more-is-more approach with equipment in a bid to troubleshoot the various environmental issues that can occur.

Whilst there is a base level of equipment that each grow environment needs, it’s important to work out an equipment set-up that is tailored to your unique growing space. What works for one business is not necessarily the best option for your business.

The key way to save energy is to monitor how your equipment works together as a whole system. Energy wastage in indoor growing often comes from equipment that is no longer running at peak efficiency or a combination of different pieces of equipment that are fighting each other.

Your equipment needs to work cohesively with your team, but also with your natural surroundings and the changing seasons.

Another area to keep a regular eye on is the external fabric of your grow space, be it a greenhouse, tunnel or even a building. You need to ensure that your space is not leaking energy and also that it’s not losing heat or letting cool air in etc.

A network of Grow Sensors will help you to spot where improvements can be made, or where potential issues might arise within your growing space, and the sensors work 24/7 which is probably too much to ask of your human team!

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Measuring and monitoring

The majority of commercial greenhouses or indoor farms will already have some sort of monitoring and measuring process in place, be it old school or technology-based. But this may be an area that is labour-intensive or limited in the data that can be recorded and stored.

Smart agri-sensors such as Grow Sensors are specially designed to support indoor growers by saving them time and labour costs whilst providing a high level of data, all day, every day.

By equipping your grow space with a network of Grow Sensors, you can reduce the time it takes your team to record and monitor data, leaving them free to take on other vital tasks.

Once set up, Grow Sensors work behind the scenes to collect and display data about a large number of environmental conditions experienced by your plants.

Everything from temperature to light, humidity, CO2 and VPD will be measured and translated into graphs that you and your team can use to manage your growing space.

With this high level of data, you will clearly be able to see where your set-up is working efficiently and where improvements could be made.

Data-driven decision making

As with any business, commercial indoor growing requires many decisions to be made on a regular basis in order for your operations to run smoothly and also to develop and to keep up with your competitors.

The data and insight that you can gain from your network of Grow Sensors will help you to make data-driven decisions that are more likely to return the results you are seeking. There might still be a need for some experimentation, but it won’t be guesswork.

This enhanced ability to make informed decisions can yield huge time, money and energy savings. An added bonus is the opportunity for learning for yourself and your team. The better you know your growing environment and your crops, the higher the quality of your end product.

Controlled Environment Agriculture

If you are growing indoors then your set-up can probably already be described as a Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) set up, but have you considered alternative ways to grow your crops?

There are a number of technology-driven growing methods that are gaining traction in the commercial farming industry, for example, Vertical Farming, Hydroponics, Aeroponics and Aquaponics. These innovative methods are full of opportunities to save labour costs, time and energy whilst growing more sustainably.

As business owners, we work incredibly hard to reach set goals, but with ever-present workloads, having achieved that, complacency can creep in. Although your operation might be ticking over nicely, growing healthy crops and generating good profitability, it’s always worth looking forward and setting new goals. Perhaps one of these emerging CEA methods could elevate your business to the next level, and set you apart from your competitors all whilst bringing you more efficiency, lower costs and a higher quality product.

Takeaways

Your team is one of your greatest costs but also your greatest asset, investing in your team by expanding their knowledge and supporting them with smart agri-technology is a key way to ensure the future success of your business.

A well optimised grow space is the key to ensuring that you are not wasting energy, resources and money.

Grow Sensors can help you to see where improvements can be made to your growing environment, these improvements are likely to increase efficiency, save money and result in your crops being healthier and happier.

Equipping yourself with the high level of data that Grow Sensors provide will enable you to make data-driven business decisions that have a higher chance of bringing desired results and outcomes.

Looking to the future and embracing new styles of CEA setups could be the thing that catapults your business to the next level and way beyond that of your competitors.  

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Lucy Starley
October 21, 2021
5 min read

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