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Vertical or horisontal indoor farming

OCS has taken a big step into the Vertical Farming industry after installing a material handling system at Swedish indoor farm Ljusgårda, now growing tons of salad vertically in towers. “For us it doesn’t matter whether farmers grow ‘vertically-’ or ‘horizontally’ layered. We’ve seen so many different options within the vertical farming industry, whether farmers use hydroponics, aquaponics or aeroponics, – nothing surprises us anymore. Luckily, we have a broad experience from material handling in several industries, which allow us to think along comprehensively with the farmer,”. It’s all about maximizing production per m2 and reducing labour costs, saysChrister Lundgren, Sales Director at OCS.

OCS specializes in overhead conveyor solutions, mainly within the complex automotive industry and is not easily held back when it comes to specific, custom-made requests from clients. In the automotive industry, where sometimes hundreds of kilos of parts have to be transported from one area to another, suppliers like OCS needs to follow a range of requirements specifications.

Overhead conveyors keep the floor free

One of the greatest benefits with the OCS systems is that the floor is kept free from equipment. On a regular basis, farmers want to give certain areas a good cleaning to reduce any contamination risks. With the hanging conveyors, you can simply direct all the carriers to another room to have complete access to the room that needs cleaning. By moving out the carriers, farms can thoroughly clean growing rooms, minimize diseases and hold a clean environment and hygiene levels. Maintenance is much easier compared to floor-based conveyor systems. Additionally, operators have better accessibility to control crops.

Taking turns in a warehouse would consume a lot of space with a horizontal system, whereas a hanging overhead conveyor, taking a turn, is conducted and simplified by a small radius. The carriers can be moved easily, with smaller space consumption and at any weight.

Scaling up: lower investment

OCS’ system can be scaled up step by step. Starting manually at a smaller size, growers have the ability to gradually expand in size. The carriers in the overhead conveyor system can be manually pushed/pulled, and weight is not an issue. Trolleys are easily moved forward by a single push, which heavily improves the work ergonomics. Once growers feel they need to scale up, due to rising volumes, the system can easily be extended and made driven, i.e. the carriers are transported automatically.

Horizontal instead of vertical

Together with different system integrators OCS is looking into solutions for horizontal/tray-based systems as this is a common practice in vertical farming. For example, finding ways to ease the tray lifting process, from light to heavy, since this is both a ergonomic problem as well as very labour-intensive. The goal is to find the most optimal solution to transport these using their overhead conveyor. Sometimes, trays can weigh up to 100 kilos. When automating this process, OPEX can be lowered significantly. In vertical farms, we’re talking about heads of lettuces, leafy greens, or herbs that are being transported. In terms of weight, it’s nothing. However, the harvesting processes might become a bit more complex since the greens aren’t always uniform in place.

“We’re not saying that overhead conveyors are always the best solution, but it’s definitely worth considering for farmers. That’s why OCS is always eager to mix our experiences with the needs of the customer. It is always fun to go into something new, developing a system for the client to ensure a proper Return on investment (ROI)”, says Christer Lundgren.

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