Innovation & Agriculture

How IoT Increases Productivity

In Vertical Farming!

Author: Panharith In
Publisher: Institute of Digital Research and Innovation
Publish date: 2022-09-23

Growing more with less empowered by IoT

Imagine you could increase your lettuce yield per square meter by 11. Nowadays, technology is considered an important tool to make life easier, faster, and more effective. The internet of things (IoT) integrates four main components; sensors/devices, connectivity, data processing, and user interface, and always so just-in-time data exchange for more intelligent decisions.1

IoT is widely used in agriculture helping farmers to produce more while using less resources. For example, the light sensor can detect the light intensity data then analyze if the plants need more light or not. If more light is not needed, the IoT devices will have the light switched off by itself to save energy. In agriculture, IoT devices can be used to measure temperature, humidity, soil moisture, light intensity, pressure to name a few.

How about Cambodia?

Agriculture in Cambodia plays a vital role in economic growth. According to the statistical data on the US Embassy in Phnom Penh website published by the US Commission Cambodia, agriculture contributes to 22 percent of Cambodia’s gross domestic product (GDP) and employs about 3 million people.

However, only 70% of vegetables and fruits are produced locally.2 Vegetables are found to be the most profitable crop type to be made.3 The land for farmers growing vegetables has significantly increased to some 60,000 hectares, however, the production is still not enough to meet the domestic demand due to the low productivity of small farms.4

How to increase the vegetable production while not increasing the land size?

With the evolution of vertical farming,5 farmers can increase the crop yield per square meter. Vertical farming refers to the farming process in which crops are grown on top of each other rather than the conventional way of planting in a horizontal row.

Hydroponics is known to be the most predominant growing system used in vertical farming. Hydroponics refers to the technique to grow plants without using soil where mineral nutrients are added to the water to supply the plants. Gravels, sand and rockwood are sometimes used to support the roots. A study by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health showed that this system provides higher production yield of lettuce 11 times while consuming water 13 times less compared to conventional farming methods.6

Figure 1: Total Gross Domestic Product and Share of Agriculture Value Added, 2000-2019

Source: World Bank national accounts data, and organization for Economic and Co-operation and Development National Accounts data files (2021).

What are some common benefits of vertical farming?


Vertical farming can ensure consistency in crop production since the farmers do not need to worry about adverse weather conditions. Since the impact of climate change/disaster is already eliminated, vertical farming allows a year round crop production. This means the consumer has access to fresh, locally grown products in every season. Instead of harvesting once a year, farmers can receive the crop production multiple times a year. More production leads to more revenue or less expenses.


Vertical farming allows farmers to grow more food in less space than conventional farming in a horizontal row. This means farmers can receive high crop yields per square meter of land. Furthermore, farmers have flexibility to build their farms anywhere regardless of the soil condition. It can be the rooftop of a flat house, an abandoned warehouse, a shipping container or even inside a skyscraper. This flexibility allows food productions to be grown closer to the city or center of population where the demands are.

Growing food close to the shopping shelf eliminates food miles and food waste since the time between harvesting and reaching the shelf has been shortened. Removing the long-haul shipping times also means removing stress from farmers regarding the food durability and storability.

The hydroponics growing systems also enables vertical farming to save water usage. Since the water is completely clean after using, it can be easily filtered and reused again. Not just water, hydroponics culture also allows farmers to spend less money on fertilizer since it is a soilless system.


The vertical farms let farmers save money on pesticides since the farm environment is controlled and provides a natural barrier to keep insects out. This results in plants growing healthily and it is also safer for consumption.

Figure 2: Food loss infographic at Spread

Source: Spread

How is IoT used in vertical farming?

In a vertical farm, IoT isto read and process data about temperature, humidity level and specific information about each plant. Then it calculates the cares or actions needed for the plants. IoT can tell the farmers exactly how much light, water, and nutrients the plant needs to optimize their growth.

The International Journal for Research in Applied Science and Engineering Technology developed a prototype for smart vertical farming with IoT devices that involves using LED, grow lights, wooden board, battery and sensors. This prototype has sensors to collect the required data, for example data regarding planting condition, then analyze and display the result and appropriately suggest actions on a web based application. Different sensors are used in the development of this prototype such as the LDR sensor, soil moisture sensor and temperature sensor (LM35), to name a few.7 

Figure 3: Water saving infographic at Spread

Source: Spread

ArrowDot is one of the leading IoT solutions providers in Cambodia. ArrowDot develops the hardware, software and mobile applications to respond to the IoT device demands in the agricultural industry in Cambodia.

The Digital Innovation Center of Cambodia Academy of Digital Technologies (CADT) offers the collaborative-work Makerspace to students, makers and the ecosystem. This Digital Makerspace provides the maker community space for making, learning, exploring and sharing. This space is equipped with a variety of making equipment including 3D printers, laser cutters, CNC machines, soldering irons, electronic tools, power tools, to name a few. With the equipment this space offers, it is best for the makers or technopreneurs to explore the opportunities to invent IoT devices.

The CADT Makerspace has partnered with ArrowDot to host a few IoT automation hackathons where the participants get to invent various IoT devices. For example, the prototype of a soil moisture level detection has already been developed by the group of students at CADT to pitch to the judges in a hackathon event.

Figure 7: Circuit diagram of IoT based model

Source: International Journal for Research in Applied Science and Engineering Technology

Local production

Kannika Modern Farm is one of the leading hydroponics farms in Cambodia with various vegetables and fruits being grown and sold. Kannika Modern Farm offers classes to train individuals who want to start up their own hydronics farms. There are also hydroponics materials and installment service available at Kannika Modern Farm. 8

Kannika farm is functioned to encourage a healthy eating and self growing vegetable at home. Ms. Pa Vina is the owner of Kannika Modern Farm and she mentioned to Khmer Times that her business model is to support a healthy lifestyle. In the interview with Khmer Times, she said “People are now more worried about their food. They don’t want chemicals in their vegetables, and they want organic products, so a lot of them come here (Kannika Modern Farm) to learn.”

Ms. Pa Vina learnt the hydroponics vertical farming technique in Thailand and brought the skills to Cambodia while she invested in research and development to build a full system to grow plants in a hydroponic culture. Now, she has full systems, selling at $500, at Kannika Farm that is capable of holding 90 plants. This price includes a free installation service. There is also a smaller set up that costs only around $50. Kannika Farm also provides the training service for those who want to learn about hydroponics and start their own hydroponic vertical farming. The starter package for hydroponics class at Kannika farm costs $20. 9

Figure 4: Hydroponics Vertical Farm at Kannika Modern Farm and Ms. Pa Vina

Source: Khmer Times

How about our neighbors

Singapore has become one of the leading countries in vertical farming innovation as the answer to the government’s call for farmers to “grow more with less” in order to raise the crop production by 30 percent before 2030.10 The Singaporean company, Sky Greens, is one of the most famous vertical farming companies in Asia and it produces on average 800 kilograms of various vegetables daily. 11 Sky Greens has products ranging from Chinese cabbages, bak choi, kai lan, and lettuce, to other leafy green vegetables. Sky Greens integrates IoT systems to monitor the pH control, electricity conductivity, light detection, nitrogen and oxygen supplementary and temperature control.
The Japanese company, Spread, is one the world leading vertical farming companies, and is preparing a big investment fund to build an automated vertical farm called “Techno Farm Fukuroi”. This automated vertical farm is expected to produce 10 tons of lettuce daily.12

Figure 5: Sky Green Farm

Source: Sky Greens


In conclusion, vertical farming is a solution for the increase of global food demand. Cambodians can start a vertical farm on their rooftops or abandoned storages. Vertical farming provides higher production yield, sustainable environment and safer food production compared to conventional farming. WIth the existence of hydroponics farm service like Kannika Modern Farm and IoT solutions like ArrowDot, it smoothens the agricultural journey for startups or new entrepreneurs to start their own hydroponics vertical farms.

The Japanese company, Spread, is one the world leading vertical farming companies, and is preparing a big investment fund to build an automated vertical farm called “Techno Farm Fukuroi”. This automated vertical farm is expected to produce 10 tons of lettuce daily.

Can IoT make vertical farming the future of Cambodia food production?

Figure 6: Techno Farm Fukuroi

Source: Vertical Farm Daily


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