Is Vertical Farming possible?

Have you ever heard about vertical farming? This blog will talk about the history and the benefits of this new farming technique.
Source

In the years to come, Vertical Farming will establish not only as a possibility but a necessity for the people. It can be an alternative to the current food production process in the future.

The United Nations Organization, in its report, World population Prospects, 2019, anticipated that the world’s population will reach 9.7 billion people by 2050. Feeding such a considerable population may be a significant issue to settle. In addition to this, we are losing arable land every year due to industrial development and urbanization.

The University of Sheffield, in its briefing note, “A sustainable Model for Intensive Agriculture, 2015“, estimated that the Earth had lost one-third of its arable land over the previous 40 years.

We have no idea how much more we will lose in the next 40 years. One of the most severe difficulties we face is the increasing food demand caused by a growing population and dwindling arable land. Many people believe vertical farming is the solution to this problem. 

Is vertical farming the future? Let’s see what concludes!

History of vertical farming 

Farming
Source

Initial Proposal

Vertical farming is a rather ancient concept. We know that indigenous peoples used vertically tiered farming systems similar to East Asian rice terraces.

Gilbert Ellis Bailey, an American geologist, developed “vertical farming” in 1915. Dr. Dickson Despommier, a professor at New York’s Columbia University, popularized the current concept of vertical farming in 1999, developing it with his students.

Dr. Despommier and his pupils devised a plan for a skyscraper farm capable of feeding 50,000 people. Even though the design has yet to be realized, it has successfully popularized the concept of vertical farming. Current vertical farming techniques and other cutting-edge technologies such as customized LED lights have resulted in crop yields more than ten times greater than traditional farming methods.

Dr. Despommier, the most ardent supporter of vertical farming- cultivating crops indoors in multi-story urban buildings – is now seeing his vision come to fruition. He believes that vertical farming can help feed the world’s expanding population while repairing the environmental damage caused by conventional agriculture.

Later Developments

Businesses and local governments expressed interest in establishing vertical farms in various cities Incheon (South Korea), Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates), Dongtan (China), New York City, Portland, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Seattle, Surrey, Toronto, Paris, Bangalore (India), Dubai, Shanghai, and Beijing.

Nearly US$1.8 billion were financed to startups operating in this sector between 2014 and November 2020.

2009: Paignton Zoo Environmental Park in the United Kingdom installed the world’s first trial production system in 2009. The initiative demonstrated vertical farming and served as a foundation for further study into sustainable urban food production. The food is utilized to feed the zoo’s animals. It also serves as an educational tool for advocating changes in unsustainable land-use practices that harm global biodiversity and ecosystem services.

2012: The world’s first commercial vertical farm, constructed by Sky Greens Farms, opened in Singapore in 2012 and is three floors high. They now boast almost a hundred nine-meter-tall towers.

2013: The Association for Vertical Farming was established in Munich, Germany, in 2013. To increase food security and sustainable development, this group brings together growers and inventors. The AVF hosts international info-days, workshops, and summits to advance vertical farming technologies, designs, and enterprises.

2016: Local Roots introduced the “TerraFarm” in 2016, a vertical farming system housed in a 40-foot shipping container that uses computer vision and an artificial neural network to monitor the plants and can be viewed remotely from California.

2017: Mirai, a Japanese startup, launched its multi-level vertical farming system in 2017. Because of its particular purpose, LED lights can reduce growing times by 2.5; the company claims it can produce 10,000 heads of lettuce each day-100, times the amount produced using typical agricultural methods.

Vertical Farming: A necessity

Dr. Despommier explains that farming has disrupted more ecological processes than anything else. Agriculture occupied 37.7 percent of global land and 45 percent of the US land in 2008. Human encroachment on wild territory has led to the spread of infectious illness, biodiversity loss, and ecosystem disruption.

Global agricultural areas have been degraded due to over-cultivation and inadequate soil management. Each year, millions of tons of harmful pesticides are used, contaminating surface and groundwater and endangering wildlife.

Agriculture accounts for 18.4% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions and 10% of total US greenhouse gas emissions.

Excess fertilizer can promote eutrophication by causing algae blooms to flourish; when they die, they are devoured by bacteria, which take up all the oxygen in the water, resulting in a dead zone that kills all aquatic life. There were 415 dead zones in the world.

Farming
Source

Agriculture consumes more than two-thirds of the world’s freshwater. Farmers are losing the struggle for water for their crops worldwide as finite water resources are increasingly diverted to booming cities. The water situation will intensify as climate change causes higher temperatures and droughts.

To feed the nine billion-person global population predicted by 2050, we need to increase food production by 70% through increased crop yields and more extensive farming.

According to a report by FAO, we will need roughly 300 million more acres of arable land to do so. Still, most of the remaining arable land is in developing nations, and many of the existing land and water resources are also performing other essential ecosystem roles. Pressuring them to create food would disrupt many more of its ecosystems.

Ongoing Activities on Vertical Farming

Nuvege, based in Kyoto, Japan, cultivates a variety of lettuces in a 30,000 square-foot hydroponic facility with 57,000 square feet of vertical growing space. Despite concerns about radioactive contamination from the Fukushima nuclear power plant, Nuvege can tout the safety and purity of its produce. Over 70% of its produce is already sold to supermarkets, with the remaining 30% going to foodservice clients like Subway and Disney.

PlantLab is building a three-story subterranean vertical farm in Den Bosch, Holland, that removes the wavelengths of sunlight that hinder plant development. PlantLab’s cutting-edge LED technology allows it to tailor the light composition and intensity to the precise needs of the crop. It is possible to manage the room temperature, room temperature, humidity, CO2, light intensity, light color, air velocity, irrigation, and nutritional value. PlantLab claims it can produce three times the production of a typical greenhouse while using nearly 90 percent less water than traditional agriculture.

And the debate is intensifying. Vertical farms are also built-in Manchester, England, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. And there is interest from Newark, New Jersey to Beijing, China, Singapore, Vancouver, Milan, Amman, Riyadh, and Las Vegas. 

And one day, New York City may have vertical farms of varying sizes in each borough, supplying fresh vegetables to stores, restaurants, and neighborhood residents.

Vertical Farming: A definite possibility plus an innovative solution

Farming
Source

The vertical farm has numerous advantages as a well-balanced mini-ecosystem. Depending on the crop, a vertically farmed acre can generate the equivalent of 4 to 6 soil-based acres (for strawberries, one vertical farm acre produces the same amount as 30 outdoor acres).

Plants can be grown all year, regardless of meteorological conditions such as droughts, floods, or pests. Vertically farmed food is free of infection (such as E-coli or radiation) and is grown organically and sustainably without fertilizer, pesticides, or herbicides.

Because there is no need for agricultural machinery, transportation of products into cities, storage, or distribution, the use of fossil fuels is limited. Unused urban buildings are transformed into sustainable facilities that provide healthy food in areas where fresh produce is limited while creating new work possibilities.

Modular vertical farms could deliver much-needed fresh vegetables in conflict zones, disaster zones, and refugee camps. And if vertical farms are used on a broad scale, we could be able to reclaim farmland while also restoring our soil, forests, and ecosystems. Without fertilizer runoff, coastal waters may restore, and our fisheries could thrive once more.

From this quick overview of vertical farming, we can conclude that it is possible and can flourish as an innovative technique to feed a considerable population on the planet.

Suraksha Pal
Suraksha Pal

Suraksha Pal is an Industrial Engineer currently pursuing her master’s degree in Renewable Energy Engineering at the Institute of Engineering, Pulchowk Campus. She has a keen interest in Renewable Energy and is passionate about sustainable development. She loves to express her views on these subjects through articles and blogs.

Articles: 1

Leave a Reply