Hay farming is a massive and important industry. The advent of vertical farm architecture has sparked numerous conversations on prospective redesigns of the way farming is done, but these conversations tend to focus on plants which are easily grown and harvested indoors, such as tomatoes and lettuce, but not on hay, which is understandable given that the hay-making process itself presents a number of challenges to vertical integration; however, there are a number of ways that the challenges presented by vertical hay integration (namely harvesting) may be overcome.
The possibility of vertical hay farming opens up a considerable number of opportunities and presents potential solutions to a number of problems endemic to traditional pasture and baling operations. Not only would vertical hay farming offer a more compact and modular model for the agricultural niche, it would also allow for a marked increase in the quality of the hay produced.
§01. Basic design concepts for practical VHF implementation
Hay has traditionally been farmed on fields, however, it is also possible to grow hay via a vertical-stack arrangement (modular or otherwise), similar to those arrangements conceptually (or actually) deployed in the discourse on general vertical farming. However, the mechanical intensity and complexity of the harvesting process engender a number of complications to vertical stack integration into existing structures (such as skyscrapers, urban housing tenements or shipping containers). Consequently, it is preferable, in the construction of a vertical hay farm (VHF) to build the facility anew or thoroughly renovate it.
Hay will be grown upon modular vertical stacks […]
[…] with each stack having a bed for grass-planting overtop of which will run a foldable mechanical baler for harvesting with a catch either following or directly attached (depending on the specifications of the baler itself). The balers and catchers would run on a rail-line and be designed so as to slide out of the attendant hay-layer of the stack so as to easily extract the bales (round, square, rectangular or otherwise). Alternatively, if whatever catch-mechanism was used to catch the dispatched and compressed bales was extractable, then the baler itself need not be easily detached from its attendant layer in the stack, as, for the purposes of bale acquisition, only the catch-mechanism needs to be removable/stack-detachable. Baling twine (or other materials) can be feed into the balers, either through the rail-line or from aperture on the layer above the mechanism.
[twine + power system]
[rail-line affixed baler] ⇒ [hay] ⇒ [process] ⇒ [bale] ⇒ [catch] ⇒ [horizontal removal from rail-line] ⇒ [bale extraction + storage] ⇒ [utilization]
[repeat process for all attendant vertical layers]
One of the greatest benefits of vertical hay farm would be the ability to produce year around. Winter is the worst time of year for hay, however, in a VHF the conditions are controllable and can be modulated for peak growth, regardless of the time of year. Secondarily, due to the increased control over the environment within the VHF, plants will always (baring accidents or human error) be able to be harvested at prime maturity and without the normal problems entailed by the unpredictability of the weather (this is important for numerous reasons, chiefly that weather is the number one challenge to hay farmers, as hay-grass is very weather-sensitive; if too dry, the hay will be stunted; if too wet, the hay will mold). In addition to the aforementioned boons, VHF could also greatly reduce the distance, machinery and manpower (and thus costs) of transporting the product to customers/users by simply building them around or in the areas with high hay demand where it was previously unfeasible, impractical, cost-prohibitive, or impossible before.