Vertical Farming Pioneers of Food Security Initiatives with Agricultural Innovations

Author : Aparna | June 19, 2023

Plant Skyscrapers are replacing your average farms, and they might just be the solution for food security in the future.

Vertical farming could help increase food production and expand agricultural operations in addition to offering fresh local veggies as the world's population is predicted to exceed 9 billion by 2050.

They can be sized to fit easily into any structure because they are modular. Additionally, they can typically feed more people than farming does because they generate 75 times more food per square foot than a standard farm.

The food is also safer and healthier because these farms don't use pesticides or fungicides. Since indoor farms require 90% less water than outdoor farms do, there is no need for a wet or dry season, and have also reduced their water usage.

What is Vertical Farming and Why is It ‘Big On Sustainability’ As Claimed by Climate Champions?

Vertical farming is the practice of growing crops in layers that are stacked vertically rather than on a flat area like a field or greenhouse. Typically, growers embed these into vertical structures like skyscrapers, used warehouses, abandoned mining shafts, and shipping barrels.

Utilizing Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) technology, this agricultural technique monitors the necessary indoor humidity, temperature, gasses, and light levels. For instance, farmers simulate natural sunshine using artificial lights and metal reflectors.

While the idea of vertical farming as we know it today, where food is grown in trays or pipes layered on top of one another like a huge plant lasagna, dates back to the 1990s, it could be argued that farmers have been looking for ways to grow more in less space and with less soil for millennia.

However modern vertical farming is already quickly taking over. One such is the New Jersey-based, vertically farmed strawberry business Oishii. In an upscale New York supermarket in 2021, a punnet of its highly sought-after Japanese Omakase strawberries sold for $50 (£44). Some saw this as proof that, over time, vertical farming could catch up to and eventually surpass regular farming in terms of quality.

For instance, Danish startup Nordic Harvest is building Europe's largest vertical farm outside of Copenhagen. According to Free Think, plants are produced in the 75,000-square-foot facility in 14 stacked layers. Nordic Harvest estimates that the vertical farm will produce 1,000 tonnes of food annually once it is fully operational.

Vertical farming is regarded as a very effective and environmentally friendly method of food production. In comparison to a conventional farm, Nordic Harvest claims to use 250 times less water.

The secret to great efficiency is automation. In order to monitor crops and establish ideal growing conditions, vertical farms use a variety of technologies, including software, robotics, and data science. Controlling the temperature, humidity, CO2, and light is part of this.

Regulated environment of this type lessens the influence of the vertical farm on the environment by reducing the need for herbicides, for example. Additionally, since vertical farms are not weather-dependent, they may grow fresh produce all year round.

Vertical farming can offer local produce from nearby buildings rather than cultivating it on large fields and then transporting it over great distances in trucks and airplanes. Food will be fresher and consume less fuel as a result.

Additionally, vertical farms frequently yield more than traditional farms do. Plants may be picked 15 times a year, according to Nordic Harvest. A typical field is harvested twice a year.

Why Vertical Farming Is Garnering Interest in Terms of Food Security Amid High Yield Harvest Experiments

There are reasons to believe that indoor farming will play a significant role in the future, despite the fact that this complex system could seem lavish in comparison to the Old McDonald concept of farming we grew up with.

By situating operations closer to the point of consumption, this new frontier in farming enables farmers to increase output, consume fewer resources, and cut back on transportation.

Several advantages induced by this farming also continues to be propellor of this method

  • Optimal Space Utility
  • Resource Conservation
  • Minimal Logistics Involved
  • Perennial Production
  • Lower Labor Costs

While the output of these farms alone wouldn't be sufficient to feed the entire population, indoor vertical farming offers special advantages to the challenges we'll confront in feeding an expanding planet. To build a more robust, sustainable food system, traditional and indoor growers must keep cooperating.

The biggest barrier to vertical farming is cost. Rain and sun are both free. Not when it comes to running complicated growing systems, software, or LED lighting.

While some buildings use electricity generated by wind turbines, Free Think asserts that vertical farms powered by fossil fuels may actually make the problem of climate change worse rather than better.

It might be costly to purchase urban real estate on which to construct a vertical farm. According to Duke University in the US, the cost of a square meter of city center land in Melbourne, Australia, on average is about $3,500.

Securing The Future of Food Security by Vertical Farming

Recently, a stakeholder workshop on vertical agriculture and sustainable urban ecosystems was hosted by the USDA and the Department of Energy. Field specialists gave thought-provoking talks at this session, which was followed by in-depth discussions in small groups on topics like engineering, pest control, and plant breeding.

Exciting possibilities exist for using vertical agriculture to address issues with food security. Because of this, the USDA has already established some of these funding and research opportunities. Future vertical agriculture conferences and research may be supported by funding opportunities provided by the National Institute for Food and Agriculture.

The Agricultural Research Service is also engaged in a project to improve the quantity and quality of American tomatoes grown in greenhouses and other protected environments.

It doesn't take much searching to get forecasts for the future of agriculture. Many people think that a sizable part of the future of agriculture may include vertical farming. Farms are becoming more high-tech as AgTech advances, enabling farmers to produce more, pollute less, and solve difficulties.

Technology-wise, vertical farms will probably also advance. This might entail AI-powered CEA systems, robotic monitoring and harvesting, and much more. One thing is for certain: as we work to tackle the problems before us, vertical farms will probably become much more prevalent.

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