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Flooring for the New Agricultural Revolution – Vertical Farms, Horizontal Farms, Greenhouses, Grow Rooms and More!

FloroBuild Epoxy Mortar Flooring installed with expertise by Industrial Applications of TN.

The science and technology of farming and agriculture has come a long way in recent years. Pressures imposed by various environmental and economic changes have compelled growers to look beyond traditional practices to help lower risk and improve efficiency.

Advances such as computer-controlled irrigation and mobile apps that allow farm managers to monitor and manage the water supply to crops have enabled owners of smaller farms, as well as the new agricultural giants, to maximize production. From vegetable farms to pharmaceutical cannabis farms, global agriculture is changing.

The “Why” Behind New Farming Methods

Outdoor Farming Stressors

Changing weather patterns, increasing urbanization, the imperative for sustainable water management, in addition to increasing consumer preference for food grown without the use of environmentally-damaging chemicals are among the many stressors faced by the outdoor farming industry. Switching to indoor farming can help alleviate a number issues, while enabling growers to maintain a more predictable revenue stream.

Population Growth

The continuous and exponential growth in the number of humans with whom we share the planet presents us with incredible agricultural challenges. As of May 2018, the world population was 7.6 billion, estimated to reach 9.8 billion by 2050. Even as we must improve food security for our current population, we must also acquire the means to feed an additional 2.2 billion people in the future. The farming revolution provides some answers.

Cannabis Industry Growth

The expanding cannabis industry is fueling the farming revolution with an increasing number of greenhouses and grow rooms. With many governments legalizing the production, sale and consumptionof medicinal and recreational cannabis, the industry is driving demand for facilities that can support consistent processing of cannabis for a multitude of products, ranging from concentrates, topicals, edibles and more.

Moving “Up” in the World

In 1999, Professor Dickson Despommier of Columbia University, New York City, along with 30 of his students, envisioned the idea of growing large amounts of food in urban high-rise buildings. They named their method “vertical farming” and coined the term “farmscraper” to describe the tall multi-story buildings in which food was to be grown.

Based on their research, the team determined that a thirty story building with a footprint the size of a city block could produce enough food to feed tens of thousands of people. Lighting would be primarily artificial, and plants would be nourished either hydroponically, that is, grown only in water containing the nutrients they need or aeroponically, using a technique in which plants are sprayed with a mist that contains water and the needed nutrients. No soil would be required for either method.

The Columbia team also investigated a third method, called “aquaponics”, whereby fish could be raised in indoor ponds that simultaneously support plant life. When the ponds’ eco-systems are balanced, the fish produce nutrient-rich waste that serves as a source of food for the vegetation. In turn, the plants filter and purify the wastewater, thus furnishing the fish with an ideal environment in which to thrive.

Year ‘Round Production Capability

Indoor growing offers a level of environmental control previously unimaginable in the farming industry. The threat of crop blight, the need for synthetic soil replenishment and the short growing season experienced by many parts of the world can be virtually eliminated, dramatically increasing yield while simultaneously providing consistent product quality.

Challenges to vertical farming viability can include the high cost of energy to provide artificial lighting and appropriate environmental temperatures, as well as the higher cost of urban labor. Innovative solutions abound, however, in the form of wind, solar and other alternative power sources, in addition to the use of energy saving lighting, and robotics to help reduce labor costs.

Vertical vs. Horizontal Indoor Farming Facilities

In a 30-story building, as described by Despommier, vertical farming would take up less overall space than a comparable number of rowsplanted in horizontal indoor farming and would provide a far greater yield, respective to the acreage being used.

Two important points to know about vertical vs. horizontal farming:

  • Vertical farming can take place in any type of indoor structure, from a newly constructed greenhouse that allows sunlight to flow in from all directions, to a dark, once-abandoned urban factory . Howeverit has been shown that when natural sunlight is allowed to shine indoors, it can as much as double the level of photosynthesis when compared to growing under all artificial light. This can mean healthier plants and great yields.
  • Similar structures may be used for either vertical OR horizontal farming. Horizontal farming in such a facility would consist of stacks of horizontal bed of plantings, with lighting and nutrient dissemination designed to reach each layer in the stack, rather than run along the vertical channels.

Whatever the technique, the two most popular types of produce are green leafy vegetables, such as lettuce, and tomatoes. Other vegetables can be too heavy for vertical farming, and many require too much real estate—whether vertically or horizontally planted—to even approach being financially worth the effort.

Despite this, there are many positives of both vertical and horizontal indoor farming, including sustainability, the potential for produce that’s equal to or better in quality than organic outdoor farming, thanks to the greatly reduced threat of contamination ; renewal of the urban landscape; job creation and more.

Close-up of FloroShop slip-resistant epoxy flooring in White Knight Grey

Flooring Requirements for Indoor Growing Facilities, Grow Rooms, Cannabis Greenhouses and More

Regardless of whether crops are planted vertically or horizontally, whether sunlight is flooding in or the facility is lit artificially, there are several common factors that affect indoor farming flooring requirements. With concrete as the most frequently used substrate in such facilities, it only makes sense to understand and accommodate this versatile material. Below are some basics to know about concrete floors in indoor farming facilities:

  • Concrete is, by its nature, porous. Because of this, untreated concrete can often absorb room moisture and spilled liquids, which can contribute to the proliferation of undesirable microbes or other contaminants within the slab and in the facility as a whole. . Application of a protective concrete floor coating designed to withstand humid industrial environments promotes good sanitation and can also help safeguard and extend the usable life of a concrete slab.
  • In uncoated slab-on-grade floors, spilled liquids can also leach downward through the slab to eventually contaminate the natural environment outside the building, including soil and groundwater.
  • Just as liquids spilled onto bare concrete can eventually enter the soil beneath, without the proper underslab vapor barrier, the concrete can similarly be subject to moisture and moisture vapor moving back up into it from the soil. This is part of a phenomenon called Moisture Vapor Transmission (MVT), and can lead to bubbles, cracking and other types of deterioration in almost any type of floor covering. Luckily, some innovative manufacturers have simple solutions to mitigate the effects of MVT.
  • A warm, moist environment invites the proliferation of bacteria and other microbes. Food and pharmaceutical plant growing, processing and packaging facilities are highly regulated under hygiene and sanitation codes that must be stringently adhered to.

Optimal, Compliant Flooring for Growing Rooms & Facilities

The family of fluid-applied resin-based coatings, which includes a broad spectrum of epoxy systems, urethane mortars, high performance topcoats and similar products, can provide the kind of protection needed in indoor agricultural environments.

Highly durable and resistant to stains, these hardworking floor coverings can withstand daily wear-and-tear from both pedestrian and indoor vehicular traffic, while offering custom options to help facilities:

  • Mitigate Moisture Vapor Transmission (MVT)
  • Waterproof floors using elastomeric underlayments
  • Impede the growth of bacteria with floor-to-wall cove bases and a virtually seamless application that can properly slope toward the floor drain
  • Deliver the necessary level of traction through the addition of quartz, flake or sand
  • Withstand exposure to harsh chemicals, high humidity and constant moisture
  • Contribute preferred design aesthetics, along with embedded floor graphics, wayfinding messages and branding because of the wide range of standard and custom colors available
  • Potentially reduce energy usage by naturally brightening up a space, increasing the light reflectivity of the floor where desired.

Top quality industrial-grade epoxy, urethane and polyaspartic coating systems demonstrate excellent performance in many areas of indoor farm facilities. However, for continually moist locations,urethane mortar flooring systems are the protective topping of choice.

Florock offers a complete line of sanitary, easy to maintain, concrete floor coating products and to meet virtually any need of the indoor agricultural industry. Contact us for a free consultation to ensure you get the best possible solution for your facility.