A Brief Guide To Vertical Farming
The population explosion is not going to diminish in the near future. Yet, the world is running out of arable lands to grow food because of its overtly focus on urbanization and industrialization. This ever-increasing food demand can be met through one ingenious concept of vertical farming.
Vertical Farming: What exactly is it?
The concept and subsequent practice of growing food on a vertically inclined surface are defined as vertical farming. This bends away from the practice of farming crops and vegetables on a sole plane level. Through vertical farming, we have to produce food in vertically stacked ground layers held together by solid structures such as shipping containers or skyscrapers or warehouses.
It deploys Controlled Environment Agriculture or CEA technology to come up with techniques of indoor farming. Temperature, light and humidity are controlled artificially while producing food indoors. It is aimed at maximizing the output of crops in a limited space.
Countries practising vertical farming
The vertical farming sector is growing fast as it ought to. It was globally worth 1.72 billion pounds last year and as per predictions would amount up to 10 billion by the end of 2026. Japan and the USA are leading the way while many other countries are playing catch up. The Netherlands is also doing very well where 35 percent of its vegetables are farmed in only 20 acres of land by means of vertical farming. Germany and Brazil are the other countries worth noticing in their efforts of practising vertical farming.
How is it done?
Let us understand the mechanism through the following aspects.
Physical layout – For achieving the goal of producing more food per sq meter, cultivation is done in stacked layers sheltered inside large structures.
Lighting – A combination of artificial and natural lights are deployed to keep the light level inside the structure consistent. Rotating beds and similar infrastructure are used in order to enhance the efficiency of lighting.
Medium of growth –Hydroponic or aeroponic growing mediums are utilized instead of soil. Mediums such as coconut husks or peat moss are common in such cases.
Sustainable features – Many enhanced features are made use of to make offset the cost and energy consumption.
What sort of setup do we require?
Depending on how the root of the plant is situated in the system, crops derive their nutrition. There are hydroponic setups where the roots are submerged in water and nutrients are delivered hydraulically. And there are aeroponic systems where a mix of water and nutrients are sprayed over the exposed roots.
Pros and cons
- It facilitates year-round growth of crops.
- Consumes 90 per cent less water.
- Crops can be produced more organically.
- Less contact to diseased and chemicals
- Offers a long term solution for food demands
- The setup is very expensive, and financial achievability studies haven’t reached any conclusion yet.
- Involves high labour costs.
- Pollination becomes difficult.
- Over-dependence on technology which might result in production loss in case of tech outage.
As we seek out newer and greener ways of sustainability to cope up with the ever-increasing demands of the expanding population, we must embrace the potential of vertical farming and think of ways to make it more efficient for a better future.