The world’s population is projected to reach 9.7 billion people in 2050, causing food shortages worldwide. Every day, we lose arable land to industrialization and urbanization. We don’t know how much more we’ll lose in the next 30 years. Increasing food consumption due to population growth and shrinking arable lands would be a major cause of concern as our survival is dependent on it. And although there are no quick-fix solutions, many believe vertical farming could be a viable option in the foreseeable future.
What is Vertical Farming?
As opposed to a field or a greenhouse, vertical farming involves growing food in vertical layers typically integrated into other structures like a skyscraper, cargo container, or a converted warehouse. This current concept incorporates Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) technology. Climate control allows for indoor food and medicinal production. Vertical farming is similar to greenhouse farming, except that metal reflectors and artificial lighting are used to augment natural light. Vertical farming maximizes crop productivity in a compact space.
How it Works
Understanding vertical farming involves four key components: Layout, Lighting, Growing Medium, and Sustainability. First, vertical farming aims to produce more food per square meter. To do this, crops are grown in layers in a tower life structure. Second, a proper balance of natural and artificial light is used to keep the room well lit. Lighting efficiency is improved by rotating beds. Third, growth media other than soil are used. Vertical gardening often uses non-soil materials like peat moss or coconut husks. Finally, vertical farming incorporates sustainability characteristics to offset energy costs.
And the Result
Vertical farming saves 95% of water but is still a novel concept. Companies have yet to scale up agricultural production to satisfy rising food demand. The success of farms like AeroFarms will decide the future role of vertical farming in meeting rising food demand. Notably, technology created for vertical farms is also being adopted by other indoor farming segments, such as greenhouses, which can utilize natural sunlight, but require much more space and longer supply chains.