2024 Guide to Vertical Farming: Optimize Light, Temperature & Nutrients for Sky-High Yields

Vertical farming offers a revolutionary approach to agriculture, enabling cultivation in controlled environments. This method empowers growers to optimize plant growth independent of external conditions. However, maximizing yields requires a deep understanding of three key factors: light, temperature, and nutrients. By strategically manipulating these elements, growers can unlock their crops’ full potential. Here, we delve into these crucial aspects, drawing insights from a successful vertical farming operation in Alaska (Read the case study).

Vertical farming with LED light for indoor agriculture

LED Grow Light in Vertical Farming: Does vertical farming need light?

Light serves as the primary energy source for plants, driving photosynthesis, the process by which they convert light into usable energy. Unlike traditional farming, vertical farms utilize artificial lighting, allowing growers complete control over the light spectrum and intensity. This enables precise tailoring to specific crop requirements.

For instance, vertical farm in Alaska, with limited natural sunlight, leverage high-efficiency LED lighting. These lights mimic the natural sunlight spectrum, but focus on wavelengths most beneficial for plant growth. This targeted approach reduces energy consumption while maximizing light utilization for robust growth.

Research suggests that strategically adjusting the light spectrum can increase yields by up to 20% compared to broad-spectrum white light.

Light Spectrum Range (nm)Color PerceptionImpact on Plant Growth
400-450 nmBlue* Encourages vegetative growth (leaf and stem development) * Plays a role in root development * Can influence plant size and shape
450-500 nmBlue-Green* Plays a role in photosynthesis, but less efficiently than other wavelengths
500-600 nmGreen* Less directly utilized by plants for photosynthesis * May contribute to overall plant health * Can influence some light-sensitive pigments
600-660 nmRed* Essential for photosynthesis, driving flower and fruit development * Can promote branching and stem elongation
660-700 nmDeep Red* Highly effective in promoting flowering and fruit development * Can influence dormancy and seed germination
700-800 nmFar-Red* Can influence plant morphology (shape) and flowering responses

Temperature: Finding the Sweet Spot for Optimal Growth

Temperature plays a critical role in plant physiology, influencing growth rates, metabolic processes, and susceptibility to disease. Vertical farming enables precise temperature control, ensuring a consistent and optimal environment for targeted crops.

In Alaska’s challenging climate, vertical farms maintain a constant temperature within a comfortable range, typically between 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit (18-24 degrees Celsius), using sophisticated climate control systems. This approach fosters efficient growth and minimizes the risk of diseases that thrive in extreme temperatures.

Precision Nutrition: Delivering the Essential Elements in Vertical Farming

Plants require specific nutrients for healthy development and peak yield. Vertical farming bypasses traditional soil-based methods, utilizing soilless cultivation techniques like hydroponics or aeroponics. These methods deliver a precisely formulated nutrient solution directly to the plant roots, maximizing uptake and eliminating waste.

The Alaskan vertical farm, for example, employs a hydroponic NFT system. This method delivers a nutrient-rich water solution directly to the plant’s roots, ensuring they receive exactly what they need at each growth stage. Additionally, hydroponics can reduce water usage by up to 90% compared to traditional soil-based farming, promoting sustainability.

Pros of NFT in Vertical Farming:

  • Efficient Nutrient Delivery: NFT delivers a precise nutrient solution directly to the plant’s roots, minimizing waste and ensuring optimal uptake at each growth stage. This can lead to faster growth rates and higher yields compared to traditional soil-based methods.

  • Water Conservation: NFT systems are closed-loop, meaning the nutrient solution is continuously recirculated and reused. This drastically reduces water consumption by up to 90% compared to soil-based farming, making it a sustainable water management strategy for vertical farms, especially in arid regions.

  • Space Optimization: NFT systems utilize channels or troughs to hold the nutrient solution, maximizing vertical space within a farm. This efficient use of space is ideal for vertical farming setups with limited square footage.

  • Automation Potential: hydroponic systems are well-suited for automation, allowing for precise control of nutrient delivery and monitoring. This can streamline operations and reduce labor costs for vertical farms.

Cons of NFT in Vertical Farming:

  • Initial Investment: Setting up an NFT system requires an initial investment in channels, pumps, and other infrastructure. This can be a barrier for new or small-scale vertical farming operations.

  • Clogging Risks: NFT systems are susceptible to clogging from plant debris or mineral buildup. Regular maintenance is crucial to ensure optimal flow of the nutrient solution.

  • Power Outages: NFT systems rely on continuous electricity to power pumps and maintain water circulation. Power outages can disrupt nutrient delivery and potentially harm crops if not addressed quickly.

  • Limited Buffering Capacity: NFT systems offer less buffering capacity compared to some other hydroponic methods like media-based systems (e.g., rockwool). This means fluctuations in pH or nutrient levels can occur more rapidly, requiring closer monitoring and adjustments.

Overall, NFT is a well-established and proven method for hydroponics in vertical farming, particularly for leafy greens and herbs. While there are initial investment and maintenance considerations, the efficient use of water, space, and nutrients makes NFT an attractive option for many commercial vertical farming operations.

There are Few More Systems That Usually Using in Vertical Farming:

  1. Deep Water Culture (DWC): Plants are suspended in a continuously aerated nutrient solution. Simple to set up but requires consistent monitoring of oxygen levels.

  2. Ebb and Flow (Flood and Drain): A periodic flood and drain cycle delivers nutrients to a media-filled tray where plants are rooted. Offers some buffering capacity compared to NFT.

  3. Aeroponics: Plant roots are misted with a nutrient solution in an enclosed environment. Highly efficient but requires precise control of humidity and air circulation.

  4. Aquaponics: Combines aquaculture (fish farming) with hydroponics. Nutrient-rich water from fish tanks is used to feed plants, creating a closed-loop system.

  5. Fogponics: Similar to aeroponics, but uses a fine mist instead of larger droplets. Well-suited for high-humidity crops.

  6. Vertical Drip Irrigation (VDI): A network of emitters delivers precise amounts of nutrient solution directly to the base of each plant. Offers flexibility in system design.

hydroponics in vertical farming

The Synergy: Balancing Light, Temperature, and Nutrients

The true magic of vertical farming lies in the harmonious interplay of light, temperature, and nutrients. By meticulously calibrating each element for a specific crop, growers create a perfect environment that unlocks the plant’s full potential for growth and yield.

The Alaskan case study exemplifies this synergy. The growers have meticulously calibrated their LED lights, climate control system, and hydroponic nutrient delivery to create an optimal environment for their crops. This meticulous approach allows them to achieve not only impressive yields but also consistent quality and predictable growth cycles.

Beyond the Basics: Advanced Techniques for Peak Performance

For continuous yield optimization in vertical farms, several additional factors warrant consideration:

  • CO2 Enrichment: Supplementing the atmosphere with carbon dioxide can further boost plant growth. Studies have shown that CO2 levels at around 1,000 ppm can increase yields by 10-30%.
  • Vertical Farming Automation: Technology plays a vital role in modern vertical farms. Automated systems can handle tasks like irrigation, nutrient delivery, and climate control, freeing up valuable time for growers to focus on strategic planning and crop monitoring.

By continuously monitoring crop performance and experimenting with these advanced techniques, growers can push their vertical farms to even greater heights of productivity.


Vertical farming offers a powerful tool for sustainable and productive agriculture. By strategically managing light, temperature, and nutrients, growers can cultivate thriving crops indoors, regardless of external limitations. The key lies in meticulous control, leveraging the latest advancements in technology, and a deep understanding of plant physiology. With dedication and a scientific approach, vertical farm operators can unlock peak yields and contribute to a more sustainable future of food production.

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