How to Estimate Vertical Farming Costs

Restaurants Consider Container Farming

As agricultural technology advances so does the innovative vertical farming industry.

Multi-million dollar vertical farms are popping up across the world, with sizable investments from billionaires backing them. 

But what do you do, if you don’t have access to millions of dollars to start your vertical farm?

Vertical farming costs will vary based on a variety of factors. When starting your own farm, you need to have an idea of what you’re going to need, to spend money on, so you can budget accordingly.

Vertical farming grows plants up, rather than out, allowing farmers to grow more plants per square foot, than traditional farming methods.

In this article, you’ll learn what factors influence vertical farming costs.

System

The type of system you plan to install for your farm will require its own equipment and materials.

For example, aeroponic systems, which mist plant roots with nutrient solution, require equipment that aquaponic systems, which use live fish for fertilizer, don’t, and vice versa.

Additionally, the level of technology your system uses will come with its own costs.

Vertical farms that rely on artificial lighting for plant photosynthesis, will have to factor in the efficiency of light sources, other features like full-spectrum light or timers, and the number of fixtures needed.

Another technological consideration, is whether you want controlled environment agriculture (CEA) technology.

CEA tech allows farmers to control aspects of the growing environment, such as temperature and humidity. As a result, the environment can be tailored to crops’ optimal growing conditions.

But the regulatory equipment needed for CEA will drive up your vertical farming costs.

Start-up costs

The facility you choose for your farm will heavily determine your start-up costs.

Larger operations require more of everything, and that requires more money. Not to mention the cost of the facility itself.

If you’re intending on starting a small farm in a space you already own and pay for, like a spare bedroom, garage, or storage container, then the facility won’t cost too much.

Aside from the facility, equipment will make up a big chunk of the vertical farming costs.

Equipment includes lighting, CEA tech, pH tools, shelves, and any other equipment you need for your specific system. For example, hydroponic farmers likely need water pumps and pipes.

Additionally, consider the quantity and quality of your equipment.

The more you need, the more expensive it’ll be. Additionally, higher-tech equipment will fetch a higher price.

Be sure to budget for the materials you need to actually start planting as well. This includes growing media, nutrient solution, and seeds. For aquaponics, consider the cost of fish and their food.

You may also need a permit to operate your farm, and there may be fees for it. Be sure to research the local zoning laws before starting.

Operating costs

Vertical farms spend quite a bit on energy, especially if artificial lighting is the only source of light for the plants.

Small vertical farms spend an average of $3.45 per square foot on energy while large vertical farms spend an average of $8.02 per square foot. Small farms are facilities smaller than 10,000 square feet, while large farms are anything bigger than that.

Energy expenses also depend on the efficiency of the bulbs.

Bulbs with higher efficiencies will produce more light for less power, ultimately costing less in the long run; however, they typically come at a higher upfront price.

Labor is another reoccurring vertical farming cost.

Even small farms require labor to make them run. The big question is whether you’ll be doing it all by yourself or hiring others to do it.

The salary and benefits you give employees, as well as how many you employ, will influence the amount you pay for labor.

Indoor vertical farms typically spend 56% of their operating budget on labor, roughly $20.78 per square foot.

You’ll also have to keep in mind expenses for materials like growing media, seeds, and nutrient solution, typically accounting for 11% of a vertical farm’s budget.

No matter what your goals are, remember to budget according to your system and start-up costs.

If you’d like to become a vertical farmer, but you aren’t sure how to get started, take a look at our Pure Greens Container Farms!

Our farms use vertical, hydroponic systems to grow crops, and they come fully equipped, including CEA technology.

To learn more, visit our website or call us at 602-753-3469.