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Fujitsu takes farming to new levels

UK: Fujitsu General Air Conditioning UK is helping to deliver the best possible growing conditions for a vertical farming enterprise in Northamptonshire.

Vertical farming involves growing food indoors on multiple levels, in vertically stacked layers, using UV lighting. With arable space increasingly coming under pressure from urbanisation, the technique aims to provide an efficient and sustainable source of food into the future.

Vertical Future, a London-based engineering company and builder of automated vertical farms, says its systems use up to 98% less water compared to traditional farming, are energy and resource-efficient, and can grow the same amount of produce in 1% of the space when compared to traditional methods.

The installation for Syan Farms of Horton, Northampton, was carried out by Hertfordshire-based CSL (Air Conditioning) with equipment supplied by Fujitsu distributor Oceanair.

Syan Farms uses controlled environment agriculture technology, which sets the temperature, light and humidity within each growing stack. By monitoring every aspect of the environment, it can achieve the best possible yield and ensure crops are never affected by poor weather conditions or land damage.

“The biggest challenge is designing a system that can distribute air efficiently across the growing area,” said Dave Crate from CSL Air Conditioning. “We have developed a solution with all air conditioning units installed at high level, with cool air sinking across the growing pods and any heat rising into the units. The wall mounts are positioned perpendicular to the growing racks to deliver air across the vertically stacked pods.’’

Oceanair supplied CSL with the equipment needed to keep the growing area at a constant 23°C. It was also crucial to design a system which avoided high-velocity air movement in the 30m2 space, as the plants require conditions as close to natural as possible.

Two Fujitsu 22kW high static duct units are paired with 22kW HP inverter condensers. The ducted units are mounted centrally, and each uses a flexible fabric duct sock to distribute air evenly along the centre of the warehouse.

These units work alongside eight Fujitsu 9.4kW inverter heat pump condensers, connected to eight 9.4kW wall mount units. The two groups of four systems, operating off a single controller, are sited at high level on facing walls perpendicular to the growing racks to prevent excess air movement.

“It was a new experience to work out climate control loadings for plants rather than people but working as a team of manufacturer, distributor, engineer and end user, we came up with a grid system to make sure each section had the correct loading to do the job and the proof of the warehouse now up and running and working to its full capacity is a testament to all parties concerned,” said Oceanair account manager Tony Holland. 

Elsewhere on site, a multi split system consisting of a Fujitsu 6.8kW multi condenser connected to two 3.4kW wall mount units and a compact cassette serves the entrance, offices and meeting area.

The project is the first of this size for Vertical Future and further sites are now in development. The site has been up and running for over 12 months with no reported issues.

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