The Convenient Magic of Vertical Farming
Abandoned mills and offices are gradually getting an extreme makeover and once again serving a purpose. Through the use of aeroponics technology, farming companies and scientific institutes are nurturing the growth of crops. Traditionally, crops are grown in a horizontal fashion in order to make the most of the nutrients provided by soil, water and sunlight. But cutting-edge practices, aptly named vertical farming, nurture plants in beds which are vertically stacked without any access to natural sunlight.
According to IndustryARC estimates, the global population is expected to reach nearly 10 billion by 2050. Urbanization is expected to reach a point where nearly 70% of all people will go about their daily lives while residing in urban settings. Rapid urbanization coupled with deforestation will eventually make farming on rolling plains filled with greenery unfeasible. Then there is the biggest threat which is looming on the horizon: climate change. Rapidly changing weather patterns and warmer sea temperature levels have already raised the occurrence of droughts around the world.
There is a general acceptance that if our children have to enjoy proper food on a daily basis, then agricultural practices have to adapt and be altered to suit the external environmental conditions. This is where vertical farming steps in to save the day, at least to a certain extent. While nature does not provide us any control over sun or rain, vertical farming provides plants with exactly what they need to thrive in controlled internal environments.
“Basically, inside the (vertical farming) system, every day is a summer day without a cloud in the sky.” — BBC
Vertical farming utilizes LED lights of various colors, far less water, and produces crop yields which exceed their traditional counterparts by nearly 70 times! Currently, vertical farming companies are focusing on producing quicker-growing varieties rather than just any crop that comes to mind. Herbs, edible flowers, etc., are being and also happen to fetch more revenue when compared to vegetables.
On the flip side, the technology also begs a question: can plants that are not grown in traditional, natural soil even be consumed as food? According to experts, the system ceases to be an organic variety when natural soil is removed from the equation. When the environment is controlled to such minute levels, it is closer to being a ‘factory’ rather than a ‘farm’ in the traditional sense.
Another crucial factor to consider is the cost. While the initial investment is tremendous, current estimates suggest that it would set a farmer back by nearly $30 million (!), it is counterbalanced by the fact that beginners would need very little experience as understanding the effects and changes in the sun and seasons is ruled out.
With urban farming growing increasingly trendy and the expenses related to vertical farming technology predicted to fall significantly with time, the growing expectation is that people from all walks of life will gradually grow their own vegetables at home, or even in their cellars. In the future, your neighborhood supermarket or grocery could easily turn out to be a mini-vertical farm.