Introduction to Vertical Farming

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By 2050, the global population is expected to be about 10 billion people, and feeding all these people will be a massive challenge, says UN.org. As a result of industrial expansion and urbanization, the world loses fertile lands every single day.

In 2015, experts reported that the world had lost about one-third of its fertile lands in the past four decades. However, we don’t know how much land will be lost in the coming years.

Growing food demand due to an increasing population alongside ever diminishing fertile lands poses one of the biggest challenges to use. A lot of people deem vertical farming as the answer to this puzzle. So is vertical cultivation the future of agriculture? Let’s find out.

What Is Vertical Farming?

Vertical farming is the process of growing crops on vertically leaning surfaces. Rather than growing crops on one level, such as a greenhouse or land, this approach grows crops in vertically stacked layers usually incorporated into other structures such as repurposed warehouses, shipping containers, and even skyscrapers.

Using CEA (controlled environment agriculture) technology, this relatively new idea utilizes indoor cultivation methods. The manual control of humidity, light, oxygen, and temperature makes it possible to grow crops indoors.

In several ways, vertical farming is similar to greenhouses, where artificial lighting and metal reflectors mimic natural sunlight. However, the main objective of vertical farming is making the most out of a small space by growing as many crops as possible.

How Does Vertical Farming Work?

There are four vital areas with regard to understanding how vertical cultivation works:

  1. Physical arrangement
  2. Lighting
  3. Growing medium
  4. Sustainability features

Initially, the main objective of vertical farming is growing more crops per square foot. To accomplish this objective, crops are grown in stacked layers.

Secondly, a perfect blend of artificial and natural lights is used to uphold the ideal light level in the facility. Finally, technologies such as spinning beds are utilized to enhance lighting efficacy.

Thirdly rather than soil aeroponic, aquaponic or hydroponic cultivation surfaces are used. What’s more, you can utilize coconut husk, peat moss, and other non-soil mediums.

Finally, the vertical cultivation approach uses a couple of sustainability features to balance the power cost of cultivation. As a matter of farming, vertical cultivation uses 95% less water.

Benefits of Vertical Farming

Having more yields from a small farming area is not the only benefit of vertical cultivation. Some of the other allied benefits of this practice include:

Adverse Weather Conditions Don’t Impact Vertical Farming

Crops in a field can be negatively impacted by natural occurrences such as cyclones, flooding, severe droughts, and torrential rains, which are becoming more and more common due to global warming. However, indoor vertical cultivation facilities are less likely to be impacted by adverse weather conditions offering more certainty of harvest all through the year.

Boosted Year-Round Crop Cultivation

Vertical farming allows farmers to cultivate more crops from the same area used for normal farming. As a matter of fact, one acre of an indoor facility offers the same yield as at least four acres of outdoor cultivation land.

According to an independent study, a 30-story skyscraper with a cultivation area of five acres can potentially yield an equivalent of 2,400 acres of typical horizontal cultivation.

In addition, year-round crop cultivation is possible in a controlled indoor setting which is entirely regulated by vertical cultivation technologies.

Environment and Human Friendly

Indoor vertical cultivation can considerably reduce the occupational hazards linked to traditional farming. Farmers are not exposed to perils such as lethal chemicals, malaria, etc., allied to bulky farming equipment. What’s more, since vertical farming doesn’t interfere with animals and trees, it’s ideal for biodiversity.

Increased Production of Organic Crops

As crops are grown inadequately regulated indoor spaces without chemical pesticides, vertical cultivation enables farmers to cultivate chemical-free and organic produce.

Less Usage of Water in Cultivation

Vertical cultivation allows farmers to grow crops with between 70% to 95% less water than what’s needed for normal outdoor farming.

Vertical Farming Is a Preparation for the Future

By 2050 roughly 70% of the global population is projected to reside in urban areas. The growing population in urban centers will cause an enhanced demand for food. The deployment of vertical farming might play a vital role in prepping for such a challenge.

Drawbacks of Vertical Farming

Vertical farming has both benefits and drawbacks. Most of the time, you’ll find it’s only the benefits that are highlighted. Some of its major drawbacks include:

Labor Costs

Vertical farming has massive power costs; however, the labor costs can be more due to the concentration of vertical farms in urban areas where wages are higher in addition to the need for more skilled labor.

Mechanization in vertical farming facilities can cause the need for fewer staff. Manual pollination may transform into one of the labor-intensive tasks in vertical farms.

No Reputable Economics

The economic feasibility of this new farming approach remains indecisive. However, the financial situation varies as the industry grows and technologies improve.

For instance, in 2018, Jersey-based indoor cultivation establishment Bowery revealed that it had acquired ninety million dollars in fresh funding. Likewise, in 2017 West Coast-based vertical grower; Plenty revealed it had received a two hundred million cash injection from Softbank.

Pollination Challenges

Vertical farming happens in a regulated setting without the presence of pests. As a result, the pollination process needs to be done manually, which can be costly and labor demanding.

Too Much Reliance on Technology

The escalation of improved technologies can at all times advance efficiency and cut costs. However, vertical farming is extremely reliant on a couple of technologies for humidity, lighting, and maintaining temperature.

Losing power for just one day can be very detrimental to a vertical farming facility. Many people deem today’s technologies not ready for mass adoption.

Final Thought

Vertical farming technologies are still somewhat fresh. As a result, businesses are yet to productively cultivate a massive amount of crops and make it viable to meet the increasing food demand. The performance of existing indoor farming facilities will decide how vital vertical farming will be in the future with regard to addressing the challenge of growing food demand.

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