Vertical farming is a relatively modern method of farming which practices growing crops in vertically layered structures to increase the yield from limited space. The concept leverages the idea that we can share natural resources in a given area by vertically spacing farming grounds. Currently, this concept has been researched and extrapolated to multiple methods for both outdoor and indoor vertical farms. In indoor farms, the environment is artificially controlled to grow different kinds of crops at the same time. Some of the most popular methods of vertical farming are Hydroponics, Aeroponics, Aquaponics, Fogponics, among others.
Why is Vertical Farming so attractive to researchers and industry at the same time? Some remarkable things are going for it
- Increased yield with a unit of land – Increasing human population is putting more pressure on our natural resources, including farmland and food resources. Any innovation to make the most of what we have would ease the pressure.
- Diverse crops at the same time – In indoor structures, we have an opportunity of growing diverse types of crops at the same time.
- Reduced weather affects – Growing in controlled environments allows the farmers to control for sudden adverse weather changes, reducing the risk associated with natural farming a bit.
- Reduced water usage – Indoor farming methods are extremely water efficient and may consume less than 10% of what is required by conventional farming methods.
- Ecological control – Since diverse crops are grown in controlled areas, the risks of contaminating the local flora and fauna from invasive species is highly reduced
There is no free lunch! Vertical farming methods have their challenges
- Higher initial costs – Setting up a vertical farm is costlier than setting up a traditional farm, due to all the additional equipment required.
- Higher energy demands – Controlling the environment in an indoor farm needs a lot of energy and for places with lower energy production, this may be a real bummer.
- Pollution – In markets where energy is primarily generated from non-renewable resources, more energy consumption would mean more pollution. Also, a lot of farming equipment is plastic-based – without proper recycling methods, this could be problematic for the environment too.
Vertical farming methods are an exciting opportunity for some markets and are a topic of active research. It works well in societies promoting farm-to-plate rather than frozen foods. It is currently not a replacement for traditional farms but provides a lot of scope for growing produce locally than sourcing it from far-off lands, especially the ones that lose their natural flavor quickly.