Blog #1 from our series "The Green Revolution"
Vertical farming has been adopted across the globe, especially in densely populated cities. Some vertical farms run without sunlight to further reduce their carbon footprint and increase efficiency.
“God Almighty first planted a garden. And indeed, it is the purest of human pleasures.” - Francis Bacon, Philosopher
Vertical farming is the practice of producing food and medicine in vertically stacked layers, such as in a skyscraper. There are vertical farms located in places like Chicago, New Jersey, and Japan. Vertical farmers range from traditional farmers to engineers who use technology like robots to grow crops inside buildings resembling warehouses or factories.
Why to grow?
The interest in vertical farming is growing due to projections that there will be an increase in the demand for food by 70% in 2050. Vertical farming has several benefits that have led to its global adoption. These benefits include, but are not limited to:
Stable crop yields
Vertical farming's biggest draw is its ability to produce crops in areas where traditional growing isn't possible due to factors like poor soil fertility, drought, and a lack of arable
Protection from outside conditions
The vertical nature of vertical farms protects crops from outside conditions such as changing temperatures and the impact of extreme weather events
Decreased water usage
Vertical farms can reduce water use by 30-70% compared with traditional farming since vertical farms don't need to irrigate crops.
Vertical farms can be built anywhere. With vertical farming, there is no limit on how much food can be produced since vertical farms are infinitely scalable. vertical farms only occupy 2.3% of American cropland .
After rising in popularity in Canada inthe mid-1960s vertical farming was adopted in Japan. In 2014 vertical farms became popular again as Kimbal Musk, a restaurateur and environmentalist decided to start a vertical farm with his brother Elon Musk's startup called 'The Boring Company.'
Protection against pests
Vertical farms can protect crops against pests since vertical farms are protected from outside conditions. They are also easier to manage should a pest infestation happen,
Increase in profits for vertical farmers
The increased availability of vertical farming means that crops can be grown all year round. This leads to an increase in profits for vertical farmers, who wouldn't otherwise have this option with traditional farming.
Less habitat destruction
Through efficient land use, our need to expand territory and eliminate crucial ecosystems will decrease. This, in turn, would give many animals and plant species the chance to recover their population.
Why to Go
However, vertical farming is often met with criticism due to its high energy demands and limited scope. Compared to traditional farming, vertical farming uses ten times as much energy to power vertical farming equipment .Other downsides include;
Expert needed to set up a vertical farming project.
Since vertical farming is such new as a concept, it would require someone with expertise to set up a vertical farm. The upfront cost of setting up vertical farms is also very high compared to traditional farming.
Effects on urban heat
Vertical farming can increase the urban heat island effect which causes cities to become hotter than usual, leading to increased temperatures in urban areas.
Significant operational costs
Energy costs, vertical farms require more expensive lighting systems, heating and cooling vertical farm structures. Crops grown in vertical farms are also very labour intensive due to the complexities of farming methods - this again, leads to increased costs.
A smaller percentage of cropland
The small percentage of cropland that vertical farming occupies is often not enough to solve the problem of world hunger on its own.
Since there are no insects inside the vertical farming systems, there might be issues regarding the pollination of crops.
Outdoor, the plants are usually pollinated in a natural manner through bees and other insects.
However, since those insects are missing in vertical farming systems, the staff may have to pollinate the plants manually in order to assure a satisfying crop yield.
Growing opportunities (no pun intended!)
Due to the presented downsides, there are open opportunities in this sector.
Vertical farming has an untapped potential to transform the way we produce food, but there are still many changes needed to make vertical farms efficient. Some examples of these changes include
Kimbal Musk's vertical farm has a goal to create a healthy, eco-friendly ecosystem that benefits both the consumer and the planet. His vertical farm focuses on growing organic produce for restaurants in Brooklyn at a rapid pace while reducing waste and building soil with worms. Kimbal Musk is the founder of Square Roots, a vertical farming accelerator based in Brooklyn. It aims to empower young entrepreneurs to build companies from their ideas through vertical farming. Kimbal Musk co-founded The Kitchen and Next Door restaurant chains in 2001 and 2013 respectively.
The question remains whether vertical farming is the solution to an increasing population and global food insecurity in the future. While vertical farming has many benefits, it also is met with criticism due to its high energy demands and limited scope.
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