Vertical farming has one obvious advantage: the reduced space needed. Room costs money, so a great solution is stacking plants vertically. This is not the only benefit, though. Here we look at the many other advantages that vertical can bring. It takes growing crops to another level.
Vertical farming using the latest gelponics from companies dedicated to providing such solutions could become the future of agriculture. This could revolutionise our ability to provide a plentiful supply of crops without worrying about climate change or pesticide use that affects our farming and food production landscape.
Increased yield from given land areas
Vertical farming involves plants stacked on shelves or tall pillars, which allows up to 10 times the yield for the given land space compared to traditional agriculture. A vertical farm can turn the quantity of food produced by 700 acres of farmland to be grown in a building the size of a supermarket.
Vertical farming works to bring the advantages of modern commercial greenhouse-controlled environments but is more productive. Plants are grown in a completely enclosed environment, with a closed-loop watering system and LED lights removing the need for sunshine. Plants are grown in clean, bug-free environments, which means they can be produced without pesticides.
The possibility to artificially manipulate the day length and mimic seasons mean crops can be grown all year round in an ideal climate.
Opening opportunities for city food production
Whilst vertical farming may not be the solution to replace traditional farming of wheat and corn crops due to the lower values per tonne and the tall nature of the plant. Smaller crops such as strawberries, salad leaves and other small plants with larger profit margins are ideally suited to the vertical farming environment. Using a hydrogel-based growing platform optimises input, sustainability of production, and crop resilience, thus cutting operational expenses.
Hydrogel products can be recycled, reusing the used product as a soil amendment to help isolate carbon. Its dry form is also valuable to countries with water shortages.
The smaller space required also makes vertical farming suited to the more localised growing of produce, thus reducing the miles by air and road that our food travels. Transporting electricity efficiently from rural solar farms to a city enables food to be grown close to towns and cities, more locally to the end destination.
A closed-loop growing system is more environmentally friendly to the environment, too, with less use of pesticides and soil treatments to deliver a perfect crop. It also creates less reliance on having optimal weather conditions for a successful harvest, leading to less crop spoil and lower intense farming methods. It reduces the need for deforestation and decertification of land. We need to protect our remaining limited natural resources yet still be able to bring reliable food production to meet growing demand.
Vertical farming will shorten the farm-to-consumer cycle by enabling urban farming using hydroponic and aeroponic systems as the way forward for many agricultural-based food products.
Jobs in the community
Promoting vertical farming will lead to a new generation of high-tech green professionals in civil engineering, information technology, and agriculture. It will also bring more localised career and job opportunities to support local communities to grow food that only travels as far as their towns and cities.
Of course, farmers worry that traditional farming will become obsolete, yet as we saw previously, some crops will always be better suited to field farming. Plenty of research explains how vertical farming effectively works with farmers and supports traditional agriculture. Those looking into this subject would be wise to explore this before proceeding.
We owe it to ourselves and the planet to move forward with more sustainable and environmentally friendly food production where we partner our use of farmland and greenhouse-produced food to support humans and animals.