At GreenForges we're shaking up the agriculture game by taking it underground. Our Plant Forges are the future of urban farming, providing optimal conditions for plants to flourish deep below the earth's surface. We already wrote about energy, as it is our focus, but today we’re excited to share with you some of the numbers and expectations behind the design of our first commercial-size Plant Forges, along with details behind the pilot farm where these bad boys will be put to the test.
So, buckle up, grab a snack and get ready for a deep dive in. Oh, and if you're wondering why we call them "Plant Forges," it's because we're forging a new path in agriculture...get it? Forging? Nevermind, moving on.
The Anatomy of a Plant Forge
The current design boasts a 1.5m diameter (59 inches) and a depth of 16.15m (53 feet) that allows for hydroponic modules to fit through nearly the entire circumference while still maintaining a good plant canopy size and adequate space for proper air circulation.
The forge is encased in a 2 cm thick steel caisson that is coated with antimicrobial and reflective coatings on the inside, and the bottom is capped with cement to prevent water, contaminants, or pests from entering or exiting.
The depth is rather conservative and has been chosen to optimize for technological feasibility, but we plan to delve deeper in the future to increase the growing capacity and improve profitability.
Each module is like its own little farm, but without the need for tractors or sunblock.
Standing at 1.5m tall, each Plant Forge houses a total of 117 of these beauties. Each module is delicately fed water and nutrients through a custom dosing system designed by our team, with gravity taking care of the flow from the top down to the water reservoir at the bottom, before being pumped back up again.
Made with a combination of plastic and stainless steel, these modules have been crafted to provide ample root space. And we'll be keeping a close eye on the performance of each module in terms of yield per unit. After all, a healthy harvest is the key to the economic viability of our Plant Forges systems.
Our modules are designed to be able to grow a broad range of greens such as lettuces, chard, bok choy, kale, and collards, as well as herbs such as basil, cilantro, oregano, fennel, mint, and many more. We hope to be able to grow small fruits and other interesting plants in the future.
Lettuce Yield Example
Cost per sq.m of floor space aimed at for 50 ft deep forges in commercial farms:
$4,200 - $4,800 usd / sq.m
Lettuce yields aimed by floor space at for 50 ft deep forges in commercial farms:
250 - 300 lbs / sq.m / year
It is worth noting that these numbers are subject to change as we work towards commercializing deeper Plant Forges. We believe we have the potential to achieve up to 100 ft in depth, which would result in a higher output per square meter. Additionally, this would also lead to a decrease in capex as the increased growing capacity would be supported by pretty much the same surface infrastructure.
Utility modules will be present at each row, or 9 in total per Plant Forge. Each utility module will serve as support for lights, ducts, plumbing and various sensors.
Each module will feature 9 dimmable LEDs of 1.5m (59 inches) for a total of 81 lights per forge. The lights will be positioned 35.5 cm (14 inches) from the modules, and will provide over 470 μmol/s/m2 when measured from the growing medium.
If plants could talk, they'll be thanking our utility modules for the perfect lighting and environmental conditions.
The extraction system is responsible for safely and efficiently transferring the growing modules in and out of the forges, allowing for the harvesting of crops, cleaning, and maintenance of the forges and the replenishment of the growing modules.
It is composed of a robotic arm and a conveyor system which will be controlled through a computer program or manually. The system will be easy to manufacture and to maintain on a regular basis. It will also feature an emergency stop button and various design security features to prevent accidents.
The Plant Forges will have a comprehensive suite of software and IoT components to monitor and control the systems. This will include sensors for monitoring temperature, humidity, CO2 levels, air pressure and water levels within the forge, as well as water temperature and nutrient levels on the surface, and much more!
The software will also be able to control the water and nutrient levels delivered to the plants, as well as controlling the LED lighting, the extraction system and other mechanical systems such as fans and ducts. It will be able to optimize the lighting intensity and duration based on the plant's growth stage and species, track and analyze the performance of the growing modules over time by monitoring the growth and yield of the plant. It will also track and analyze the energy inputs per pound of biomass produced, providing insights on how to optimize energy inputs to maximize yields.
Finally, the system will be user-friendly and easy to operate, with a simple and intuitive interface, the ability to remotely control and monitor the forges, the ability to start and stop the forges, change settings and parameters, and access data and reports remotely.
Pilot farms are facilities we use to kickstart the development of underground farming capacity within a certain geographical area. They are used to:
1. Calibrate our technology to a specific region
2. Showcase the technology to the local community
3. Conduct R&D to expand our crop offerings
4. Recruiting and training talent
After a pilot farm project is successfully completed, commercial scale-ups will follow to serve the region with fresh, healthy, local food.
We are currently planning the construction of our first pilot farm.
First Pilot Farm
Because our goal is to enable urban environments to cultivate crops right under the places where people live and work, produce grown through Plant Forges will be sold directly to consumers. And because the consumers want diversity of produce, our pilot farms serve as R&D centers that grow multiple crops at the same time, in an effort to constantly expand our commercial offering.
The pilot farm will be open to the public, providing a unique opportunity for visitors to witness and learn about the innovative Plant Forges systems in action. Guided tours will be offered to give visitors an in-depth understanding of the systems and how they work, from the hydroponic growing modules to the utility modules that support the lighting and sensor systems. The pilot farm will be a valuable resource for the local community, offering a glimpse into the future of sustainable agriculture and the potential for urban food production. The pilot farm also aims to raise awareness and generate interest in underground agricultural production, encouraging more people to explore and invest in the technology.
Research will also be a key component of the pilot farm, as we are looking to partner with universities and research institutions to conduct studies and research on technical aspects of the forges and the farm, as well as the environmental, economic and social impacts of underground farming.
The planned floor plan is 70” by 120” inside an insulated aluminum Sprung Structure and divided into two sections: a public section, and a farm section.
The public entrance leads people entering to focus on the Plant Forges and the farming operations. The public section will feature a showroom area where visitors can learn about the systems and touch some of the components, a tasting bar where the produce of the forges can be tasted, and a lounge where people can sit to eat or work.
The farm section will host all the supplies and equipment needed to operate the forges. It will feature a water systems room, a mechanical room, a receiving room and an office which also acts as a transition room from the public area into the farm area. The main feature of the farm will be the operation area, which will house Plant Forges systems and their conveyor systems, germination racks and workstations where modules can be loaded with seedlings or harvested and cleaned.
Since more than 56% of the world population lives in cities, we believe that commercial farms using Plant Forges can become incredibly useful for urban agriculture. With this technology, cities can integrate underground farms under or besides their developments and reduce their dependence on imported food and long distance transportation. It would generate positive impact on the environment by reducing the carbon footprint of transportation and packaging material while also providing fresher, healthier options for city dwellers.
To sum it up, we’re super excited about our Plant Forges and the pilot farm. It’s a technology that has the potential to change the way we grow crops in urban environments and we've left no stone unturned to make it a reality. We're excited for you to come along for the ride as we test out our Plant Forges at the pilot farm. An underground farming revolution that you won't want to miss.
Ready to join the underground farming revolution? Whether you're a farmer looking to take your production to new depths, a supplier ready to supply us with the best equipment or an investor looking for a cutting-edge opportunity, we want to hear from you. So don't be shy, let’s connect and make underground agriculture a reality.