- Vertical farming is turning out to be nearly 10 times more efficient than traditional agriculture.
- The development is being described as an agricultural evolution as opposed to a revolution.
The world population is currently ballooning, and the problem is only expected to get worse as the decades go by. With the world population expected to be 11 billion by 2100, how are we going to feed more of these hungry mouths?
Part of the answer will definitely be changing the way we grow our food. And a new trend is expected to assist on that front—vertical farming.
Vertical farming doesn’t promise to radically change the way we farm, only make it more efficient, productive, and take up less space. An example is Urban Crops, a new startup that grows plants using a mixture of indoor farming techniques and hydroponics. Their facility is in Waregem, in eastern Belgium. Here, plants grow under a purple light delivered by LED lamps. The light is a mixture of blue and red lamps that seems to create the optimal conditions for growth.
Those plants are fed with a hydroponic system that delivers water laced with special minerals and nutrients.
The whole system can turn a 50 square meter space (540 square feet) into 500 square meters of usable farm space. Their 30 square meter (323 square feet) facility is able to produce 220 lettuce plants every day, using only 5% of the water needed in traditional farming.
But Urban Crops is not alone in this farming revolution. More and more companies are investing in facilities that try to do the same thing.
The biggest facility right now is a 14,164 square meter (3.5 acre) facility in Newark, New Jersey, run by Aerofarms. This facility can produce up to 2 million pounds of fresh, leafy greens a year, and is equivalent to 139,931 square meters (13,000 acres) of actual farmland.
A Swedish project wants to top even that. Plantagon Agritechture and Sweco Architects have revealed a project called the Plantagon World Food Building in Linköping, Sweden. That is a “plantscraper” 16 stories tall.
Meanwhile, Target has revealed a partnership with MIT to bring vertical farming techniques to stores. The partnership wants in-store vertical farms, that will make supermarket-bought produce fresher and, possibly, healthier.
Future Cities will be solar powered and vertically farmed. By 2025, we will see several major cities around the world converting to solar power. In fact AT&T has just partnered with portable solar power systems developer Goal Zero and Brooklyn design studio Pensa for the roll out of Street Charge public solar charging stations in New York. Advancements in batteries, solar cells, solar glass and solar paint will allow city planners and developers to collect and harness the power of our Sun. These future solar powered cities will also be vertically farmed.
Future cities will contain solar powered vertically farmed skyscrapers filled with fresh nutritious organic produce. Each neighborhood will have a vertical farm allowing these urban areas to be energy and nutrient independent. Vertical farming will allow each community in an urban area to choose what it needs to grow and could decrease waste by implementing data driven production and distribution. After several months of data, the systems will adjust the types and amounts of produce to produced. This deep farming data will allow communities to grow only what they need. This type of farming will change the way food is grown.
Vertical farming methods in urban areas could also increase ecological awareness in the youth of these cities. Many children in urban areas have never visited a farm. These children have no idea what it takes to grow food and how much energy, water and time are used in farming. These vertical farms could serve as community educational centers as well as work communes for people that can not afford these fruits and vegetables. Alternatively, if society progresses and evolves into an empathy driven culture we could see these vertical farms become “free food zones” allowing anyone within the community to get all the food they need. I know “free” is a hard concept to accept but try to keep in mind that future automation could allow this free concept to exist if the hand of greed and oppression are kept at bay.
Could vertical farming solve the world’s hunger problem? Imagine building a twenty five story solar powered vertical farm the heart of the desert. With advancements in building materials, water collection technologies that draw water directly out of the desert air and water filtration we could see a closed loop system that are automated and self contained.
Developing sustainable farming practices within urban areas that will become more intolerant to farming due to climate change will become a necessity in the near future. We will need to use controlled environmental systems like vertical farms to grow fruits and vegetables that are not native to local climate. Why ship strawberries from Norway to the desert or cities when we could grow them on the 15th floor of a local vertical farm? Why ship bananas from Guatemala when we could grow them on the 11th floor? Each floor could contain a specific climate and rotate to follow the sun during the day allowing sweeter fruits and larger produce.
Livestock (sorry vegetarians) may also be an option. Smaller amounts of animals in local vertical farms could allow humane “free range” grazing inside floors dedicated to grass grazing. Cows on 19, chickens on 20 and piggies on 21… going up?
Take a look Dragonfly DRAGONFLY, A METABOLIC FARM FOR URBAN AGRICULTURE project by Vincent Callebaut below.
Advantages of Vertical Farming listed on VerticalFarm.com
- Year-round crop production; 1 indoor acre is equivalent to 4-6 outdoor acres or more, depending upon the crop (e.g., strawberries: 1 indoor acre = 30 outdoor acres)
- No weather-related crop failures due to droughts, floods, pests
- All VF food is grown organically: no herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers
- VF virtually eliminates agricultural runoff by recycling black water
- VF returns farmland to nature, restoring ecosystem functions and services
- VF greatly reduces the incidence of many infectious diseases that are acquired at the agricultural interface
- VF converts black and gray water into potable water by collecting the water of
- VF adds energy back to the grid via methane generation from composting non-edible
parts of plants and animals
- VF dramatically reduces fossil fuel use (no tractors, plows, shipping.)
- VF converts abandoned urban properties into food production centers
- VF creates sustainable environments for urban centers
- VF creates new employment opportunities
- We cannot go to the moon, Mars, or beyond without first learning to farm indoors on