We stack people into tower blocks, should we start growing our plants in the same way?
What Is Vertical Farming?
‘Vertical Farming’ is a relatively new concept. At its simplest, the vertical farming system involves vertically stacked beds of crops grown within a carefully controlled environment with no natural light or soil. The term was first coined by Dickson D. Despommier, Ph.D., the writer of ‘The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st Century,’ who explains more about the process here.
So Won’t My Produce Lack Flavour if It Isn’t Grown In Soil?
No. vertical farms make use of aeroponic farming to mist the plants with all the water and nutrients they need. Your vegetables literally grow out of thin air.
Why Do We Need Vertical Farms?
Population is increasing and land is scarce. Despommier calculated that a complex of two hundred twenty story high buildings, each eighty by fifty feet at its base, about the space of an old airfield, could grow enough rice and vegetables to feed everybody living in New York by the time we reach 2050. Not only produce, the vertical farms could also provide herbs, spices and medicinal plants.
Farming can be a major environmental disaster. Not only taking up land and depleting the soil of nutrients, the runoff from agriculture pollutes our oceans too. This is not the case with vertical farms which are also seventy percent more efficient than hydroponic farms, and even hydroponic farms (plants grown in water) use seventy percent less water than standard farms. So that’s impressive. Using so little water and no soil means the plant beds are light and can be stacked high, like Ikea storage.
Also tackling the problem of seasonal produce availability in cities, vertical farms mean fresher produce, less chemicals and less wastage.
Around The World in Vertical Farms
The U.S. currently has vertical farms in Seattle, Detroit, Brooklyn, Houston, Queens and Chicago. Aerofarms’ location in Newark, New Jersey is one of the largest. Built on the structure of the old Grammer, Dempsey & Hudson steelworks that opened there in back in 1929. The building’s ceiling can support twelve layers of produce shelves, growing kale, arugula and other leafy greens. Once providing the industrial shipment of 20,000 tons of steel, Aerofarms soon expect to use the same space to ship over 1,000 tons of greens.
Korea built their first vertical farm in 2010 and in a leaf-raising move the mayor of Seoul has now announced that every building can include an addition for this kind of farming. It would mean the city can take back control of the produce it currently imports. Singapore’s first green farm capitalizes on the riches of the place and makes use of its minimal space. Sky Greens, the first vertical farm in Singapore currently produces 1,000kg of veg a day, it takes just ten people to harvest this amount. Early next year though, the farm expects to bump up its output to between 5000 and 10,000kg a day!
Reducing waste and pollution, making fresh produce accessible to a large population, and reclaiming old or abandoned industrial space for greater good are just some of the things that make these verdant vertical gardens key to our future on this planet.