"The scale of indoor farm facilities is rapidly increasing. Until the last couple of years, the average number of fans required for grow facilities we supplied was around 50 units, but now it is more common to see indoor farms requiring 300-400 large-size fans. Operating equipment efficiently at such scale brings a unique set of challenges," says Sergey Chistyakov, managing partner at TerraBloom.
TerraBloom is a manufacturing company based in Chino, California, specializing in ventilation systems and accessories for residential and commercial customers. Indoor cultivation is one of the company's main markets. Built with the idea of providing reliable, affordable, and energy-efficient ventilation products, TerraBloom has clients across the United States and Canada with plans to expand to Europe, the Middle East, and Australia.
Commercial growers typically use TerraBloom EC fans to achieve a uniform climate and avoid high heat or humidity zones in a facility with a large footprint or multiple vertical grow levels. In cannabis cultivation, TerraBloom fans and filters help remove strong odors during the flowering phase to meet the requirements of local authorities. In addition to that, in cultivation facilities that supplement CO2 to boost plant growth, TerraBloom fans have been installed to meet CO2 safety requirements to mitigate the chances of excessive carbon dioxide levels.
"When enriching the air with carbon dioxide, you need to have an emergency exhaust system to purge excess carbon dioxide and ensure that the levels don't become dangerous to workers. By wiring the fans with carbon dioxide controllers or sensors, the fans can turn on automatically when the CO2 levels reach a certain PPM threshold," Sergey explains.
Also critical to commercial operators is the shape and form factor of the fan. From the beginning, TerraBloom has been designing its EC fans for the smallest vertical clearance possible to facilitate their installation in areas with limited available space. TerraBloom EC fans mount perfectly onto vertical racking systems without the need to remove or disassemble any parts of the fan, all while preserving vertical clearance for the cultivated crops.
A fan is a muscle, and a fan controller is a brain
According to Sergey, TerraBloom's best-selling fans are built with electronically commutated (EC) motors. In other words, they are equipped with digital control boards, which allow users to use a wide range of computerized fan speed controllers to manage their fans. These fans can understand standard PWM or 0-10V signals sent by a controller and interpret it as a command to start, stop, or change the speed of the motor.
"Our fans give users a wide range of options when it comes to speed controllers. Wired, wireless, thermostat, and wall-mounted options are all available and can be used interchangeably with TerraBloom's EC fans. We want to give our customers the ability to pick the controller that best fits their application. For complex tasks requiring custom controls, we give our customers a chance to program microcontrollers based on Arduino or Raspberry Pi frameworks with their operating logic. Our fans also allow for integration into proprietary environment control systems when possible. Very few fans on the market allow for that level of flexibility and customizations," notes Sergey.
By default, all TerraBloom fans come in set with eight-speed digital or variable dial analog speed controllers. However, the fans can also be managed by the users' incumbent control system via a PWM or 0-10V speed signal. This feature is essential to commercial operators of vertical indoor farms, which typically have proprietary environment management systems and rely heavily on automation to manage the ventilation equipment at a large scale.
TerraBloom's research and development team has been working on numerous innovations, including developing a controller that would bring Internet of Things connectivity to every unit and enable fan control from the user's phone, iPad, etc. The possibility of such integrations is significant for residential and commercial clients who want to manage their ventilation fans using their favorite smartphone or tablet.
TerraBloom is also integrating machine learning to allow users to adjust fan usage according to past data. The prototypes have been tested and will be rolling out for beta testing with select commercial customers in the coming months.
All HVI- and Energy Star-certified
To ensure that the specifications of its products are accurate, TerraBloom makes a point of having all of its EC fans certified by the Home Ventilating Institute (HVI), which ensures the accuracy of performance numbers for fans and ventilation systems in the United States and Canada. Based on the energy efficiency reflected in performance reports, TerraBloom EC fans have also been certified by Energy Star and received the highest tier Most Efficient 2021 designation. Having Energy Star certified equipment often allows users to recoup equipment acquisition costs by getting rebates from their power utility companies.
"In the ventilation space, a lot of challenges come from the lack of reliable data. With our certifications, we are trying to help our clients understand and have faith in the numbers we provide," explains Sergey.