Revolutionizing Horizontal And Vertical Farming With Montel

Image sourced from Montel

Image sourced from Montel


Editor’s note: The following information is derived from an interview Agritecture conducted with Jerome Doucet, CEO and President of Montel.

21st Century Farming

Farmers of the 21st century are running out of space. Land in cities is already occupied, and, if not, it’s just too expensive. There’s just no room to start large-scale farming operations. So, what’s a farmer to do?

With over 20 years of experience in organizational storage systems, Jerome Doucet, CEO & President of Montel, comments that “with conventional horizontal grow systems, you're basically wasting space. Normally, one would have a row of shelving or racking, and then an aisle before the next row. With static racking like that, each aisle is wasted space. And farmers usually don't have much space or land to spare.”

So, even if a farmer starts an operation, they have no space to expand when the time comes. Because of that, the entire operation has to move. This doesn’t only mean acquiring more expensive land, for an entrepreneur, it also means having to renovate or build out an entirely new facility. At the same time, land is being damaged in the process of transitioning the facilities to a new location.

Jerome speaking at the AgLanta Conference

Jerome speaking at the AgLanta Conference

Don’t Just Legalize It, Mobilize It

Jerome comments that in the cannabis world, “we keep hearing people pushing to legalize. For the 21st century farmer, I would say: mobilize it.”

Most growers don't know about mobile space-saving horizontal rolling solutions. “But there are some. These solutions help optimize the space horizontally. So, you avoid a lot of expensive costs, and you also save energy. With conventional horizontal grow systems, you're wasting energy” because you're not only lighting the crops, you’re also lighting the empty aisles between the rows.

Montel is actively working to reshape this perspective of horizontal farming being wasteful. Jerome comments that “the goal is to maximize the use of the available space to increase yields, and to free up room for the grow operation. This could even mean getting rid of the space you don't need to pay for.”

Essentially, you shouldn’t just be growing vertically or horizontally. You should be doing both. You need to optimize grow space on both axes, thereby maximizing cubic footage. Montel’s mobile grow racks help you do exactly that. As a bonus, you don’t end up lighting empty aisles without crops, and so, you also optimize your farm’s energy consumption.

Here’s where Montel’s mobile horizontal and vertical farming systems come into play.

Alongside these numerous benefits of maximizing available space and cubic footage, increasing yield, optimizing energy consumption, and getting rid of unused space, a huge benefit is your return on investment (ROI).

Jerome shares that with a static horizontal system, “if you consider the rent per square foot, the HVAC cost per square foot, and the tax and maintenance cost per square foot, these costs become very expensive.” 

With Montel’s horizontal rolling solution, your “ROI could be within 2 years, so it should be a no-brainer for any entrepreneur.”

Whilst you do have to consider the cost of the mobile grow rack equipment, “you save on space, and in most instances you’ve recovered more than half of the square footage which you now don’t have to pay rent, HVAC, taxes, maintenance, or security for.” 


Image sourced from Montel

There’s a value to this freed up space. According to Jerome, “your total savings per year can go from US$100,000 to millions.”

As a bonus, “you don't need to bend over (and hurt your back) to move one or multiple mobile units. It’s much easier to roll, and it’s safer.”

Every Little Inch Counts

Jerome shares that “some clients prefer narrow aisles, whilst others prefer wider ones. This is dependent on accessibility to the plant, space for forklifts or wheelchairs. This is a huge consideration because every little inch counts horizontally and vertically.” You need to decide whether you want only one aisle, multiple mobile units, and then a second aisle, or just one aisle in total.”

Another tip Jerome shares is on vertical spacing between shelves or racks. “It’s important to maximize the space between each level. If you're growing berries, or if you're growing a different crop, the spacing is different, but at the same time, you don't want to have too much spacing. You also need to verify with the lighting manufacturer what the ideal spacing is between the light and the top of the crop. So that's the second tip.”

Your equipment has to be space-saving too. This includes your lighting fixtures, built-in rack ventilation, ducts, pipes, gutters, and more. While this little space doesn’t seem like a lot, it adds up. “If you have 25 levels and you save a little space in each, that could mean a whole new level or more of crops.”

What About Greenhouses?

Montel is currently testing the waters with greenhouses. “We want to transform the way farmers grow crops. And I think there's a huge market for mobile systems in greenhouses.” While it hasn’t been proven yet, Montel is developing new products that are adapted for these environments. 

With greenhouses “there’s a lot of wasted space vertically. Usually, they have single level solutions. And we keep seeing these companies buying land, more land, and more land to build greenhouses. But, we need to preserve land better. Why not optimize the space cubically and preserve it?”

A challenge Jerome shares is that greenhouse growers want natural light over artificial light. “Montel is now doing deeper market research to figure out how to have the top grow levels lit by natural light, and then a combination of natural and artificial light for the lower levels. Some climates aren’t helpful for certain crops, so why not swap your crops on the upper level with an arched natural light, and sweep the others under artificial lights to give them a boost.”

Most greenhouses have static rolling benches, there aren’t many mobile grow racks. “Since the structure itself is fixed to the ground, and only has a bench on top of it, you usually can only roll eight inches and a half from the center. A Montel mobile system can give you much more flexibility. That's why I believe that in greenhouses, there's a better solution than just the conventional rolling bench.”

Another challenge here is educating the greenhouse industry about these space saving solutions. “Since you can adjust each shelf beam by 2 inch increments, for growers it can be a lot easier to trim plants without having to bend down. Each section can also be adjusted in height. With a rolling bench, you can typically only adjust the slope.” 

Montel’s solutions also allow for more accessibility being ADA compliant, and allow more options for upgrading. A typical greenhouse operator would have to buy a new plot of land to expand, but with Montel’s solutions, you can grow horizontally and vertically, so you can upgrade on multiple levels. “A Montel system can go up to 26 feet high” offering entrepreneurs and existing businesses with endless possibilities.


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