June 18, 2019
Managing Heat in a Vertical Environment
It’s true that vertical racking in your garden has numerous benefits. At one time, this method was only accessible to the most advanced operations, but today vertical racking has become increasingly mainstream. There’s good reason for it, too:
- Growers with space limitations can expand their production without needing to invest in more square footage.
- Vertical farms use resources like electricity and water more efficiently.
- Some LEDs are designed for the vertical environment.
But before you get swept up in your lofty aspirations, consider one of the most common obstacles vertical growers encounter: heat. Lots of lights (even with cooler LED technology) in a tight space can lead to warmer temperatures. Any experienced grower understands that not being able to control the environment and avoiding swings in temperature and humidity can lead to more — and often costly — issues in the long run.
What’s the Deal with Heat?
Warming up a cold facility is one thing but cooling off a hot one can be even more of a challenge. It’s not as simple as bringing cooler air from the outside in — especially in the peak of summer when it’s sweltering outdoors.
Temperatures have a direct effect on crop quality, vertically racked or not, so this aspect of any indoor grow is imperative to monitor. Crops that experience too-hot conditions might express stress (brown, wilting leaves and reduced flower mass). Not only this, heat can also impact a plant’s ability to properly photosynthesize and transpire.
If your indoor facility experiences extreme temperatures, on either end of the spectrum, you could witness a spike in humidity. Microclimates can quickly develop between plants, or between vertically racked tiers, creating swampy, dank conditions. It’s a recipe for disaster — a warm, humid environment is the perfect invitation for mold and disease to flourish. So, before you start constructing your vertical garden, ensure you have the right equipment to maintain ideal conditions for both you and your plants.
How to Get Back to the Goldilocks Zone
Finding a perfect equilibrium all comes down to a combination between, one, finding the right lights for your operation and, two, maintaining airflow.
- Lights – Start with your lighting system. LEDs are the coolest lighting option currently available to commercial growers. Some LEDs are equipped with dimming abilities, so growers are able to gradually increase the light, rather than going from dark to full brightness. This technique can also help prevent a spike in temperature/humidity. Not only do LEDs run at a lower operating temperature, but they also provide superior uniformity to fully penetrate the canopy.
- Airflow – An effective HVAC system can prevent your indoor temperatures from feeling a little too balmy. With the right air intake and ventilation system, you can prevent temperatures from getting too high, water condensation and microclimates from developing between your plant’s branches. Some growers design their facility with an air intake in the middle of the grow room and an air exhaust on the edge. This creates a vortex with two circular motions, so there’s a constant, steady stream of air through your vertical grow pillars.
Getting control over your facility temperature is one of the first steps toward getting your vertically racked garden in working condition.