Each year arable land is disappearing, natural disasters are destroying crops, and the number of people that need to be fed is drastically increasing. With less land to grow food, the planet is going to face significant food shortages if conservation and new farming techniques aren’t encouraged.
History of Vertical Farms
Luckily, such farming techniques have already been implemented in several regions across the globe. Vertical farming is not a new concept. The Indigenous population of South America has been using food in vertical layers for centuries, and the rice terraces of East Asia also follow a similar technique.
Integrating agriculture into a built environment started in the 1950s when a Danish farmhouse grew cress in a factory on a mass scale.
Nowadays, vertical farming has evolved into a fully controlled vertical way of farming indoors in urban environments.
The Makeup of Vertical Farms
These modern day massive vertical farms do not require any soil and use water efficiently. They grow crops year round, at faster rates than traditional farms, while using LED lights to grow produce instead of the sun.
The vertical farming system uses a root-misting nutrition and oxygenation procedure, which requires 95% less water than a regular field.
The crops aren’t planted in soil but on reusable cloth sheets that are made from recycled plastic, receiving water and nutrients from a mist solution that is sprayed on the produce. This technique uses 95% less water than field-farming.
Unfortunately, energy costs are a significant barrier to success, making very few vertical farms in the US profitable, and those that are profitable tend to be smaller farms. However, the speed and large quantities of produce grown, as well as the amount of water saved encourages the farms to continue operating and evolving their processes.
Vertical Farms Around the World
The largest vertical farm on the planet is currently still under construction by AeroFarms in New Jersey, and once completed in late 2016, it will produce 2 million pounds of lettuce and other leafy greens per year.
The 70,000-square-foot farm is being constructed in an old steel mill. Vertical farming reuses urban spaces and encourages locally grown and consumed produce. This lessens the footprint of transporting food great distances to reach consumers.
The first large vertical farm project was Sky Greens in Singapore, and currently the world’s largest vertical farm project is the Mirai Corp in Japan. Aside from the large scale vertical farms, smaller scale projects can also be seen in London, Germany, and the Netherlands.
With new vertical farm projects popping up in many regions around the world, getting fresh and local produce will hopefully become more accessible for urban dwellers today and into the future.