Is the Future of Farming Vertical?
H1 - What’s a Rich Text element?
H2 - What’s a Rich Text element?
H3 - What’s a Rich Text element?
H4 - What’s a Rich Text element?
H5 - What’s a Rich Text element?
H6 - What’s a Rich Text element?
Paragraph - A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!
Quote - A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!
The world’s population will reach almost 10 billion by 2050. Feeding this many people, especially with the climate crisis, will be a challenge. Vertical farming is posed as one of the solutions to this problem.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimates that agriculture is responsible for 80% of deforestation and 70% of freshwater use. Food production systems release 27% of global greenhouse gas emissions. More than 50% of agricultural land is degraded. Even with our overuse of natural resources, over 700 million people in the world go hungry every day.
As the world’s population grows over the next few decades, global food demand will also increase. The question is will food supply be able to match demand. The Global Agricultural Productivity (GAP) Report, states that global Total Productivity Factors (TFP) are not growing at fast enough rates to support demand. TFP is measured by comparing agricultural inputs (e.g., fertilizer, labor, land, and water) with outputs (e.g., crops, agricultural products). If two farms produced the same output, but one used less inputs, that farm would have a higher TFP. Essentially, raising TFP is the same as using our resources more efficiently.
A Potential Solution
In order to have a stable and sustainable food supply in the future, we must find ways to more efficiently use our resources while also increasing our output. So, how is this possible? One potential solution is vertical farming.
Vertical farming is the process of growing crops stacked on top of each other instead of in the horizontal rows of traditional farming. These stacks of crops are usually grown in a building, such as a skyscraper, warehouse, shipping container, greenhouse, or other place that couldn’t be used for traditional farming. Conditions including temperature, humidity, and light are controlled to produce maximum crop yields. Most vertical farms use hydroponic, aquaponic, or aeroponic growing methods, making soil unneeded.
Vertical Farming Companies
Infarm, a Dutch vertical farming start-up recently raised $200 million from investors and became valued at $1 billion. The company currently grows 75 types of herbs, salads, and leafy greens, but hopes to expand into all types of produce in the future. Their mission is to provide fresh produce to all people at an affordable price.
Infarm’s two major production units are Infarm Growing Centers and in-store farming units.
Growing Centers connect multiple vertical farming modules, creating the equivalent of 110,000 square feet of growing space. They also include a distribution center so crops can quickly be distributed to local grocery stores. In-store farming units can be used inside supermarkets, creating a more interactive experience for shoppers. The company claims that a space the size of an average living room can be transformed into a vertical farm that produces 500,000 plants per year.
Vertical farms use no pesticides and recycle water and nutrients. They also reuse the water that evaporates from the plants. They use 95% less land and water than soil-based agriculture. Additionally, since these farms are located in cities, the crops have to travel fewer miles than crops produced from conventional agriculture.
Aerofarms is another vertical farming company that began operating in 2004. They have grown over 550 different varieties of plants including leafy greens, berries, and tomatoes. They claim to be able to grow the same amount of crops in 1 acre of vertical farming as 130 acres of field farming. Like Infarm, Aerofarms uses 95% less water than conventional farming and uses no pesticides. You can watch a tour of Aerofarms 70,000 square foot vertical farm in Newark, New Jersey – the largest in the world.
As usual, economics is a concern with vertical farming. They require a lot of upfront investment in order to build their expense infrastructure. Also, most vertical farms are located within cities, making acquiring land an expensive endeavor, especially compared to the cost of land in rural areas. Some people raise concerns about the high cost of electricity required to operate thousands of LED lights.
In vertical farming, no insects are used for pollination, instead it’s done manually and is an expensive process. Additionally, a lot of labor is required to carry out this process and other crucial processes in vertical farming, adding more costs.
Vertical farming isn’t a perfect solution to all of the world’s food supply problems, but it’s a promising component of the overall solution. It could allow us to utilize our natural resources more efficiently, cut the miles fresh food has to travel to reach people, and allow degraded land to regenerate. We will have to see if innovation will make vertical farming more cost effective over time, to see if it’s truly the future of farming.