The time you hear vertical farming, you may be visioning trees growing on top of trees. Well, you are close. The cultivation of plants, medicines, and other edible products in some mechanized stacked levels is round up of vertical farming. The primary difference between land-based farming and vertical farming is the location and technique. These days land-based farming has decreased due to the rising deforestation, more human expansionism on land, and an increased degradation of soil fertility.


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Vertical farming is a term that was coined by Gilbert Ellis Bailey in his book Vertical Farming. There is not much known or written about the author’s biography, professions, or interests. However, a book that was published in 1915 is trying to impact the society’s agricultural dynamics a century later. You can, somewhat, pick up some of the implications about his interest in soil and its nutrient composition. Bailey viewed plant life as vertical life forms. The modern-day technology methods accentuate on the idea of growing plants in layers in a multistory building or containers.

In the 21st century, vertical farming uses Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA), where all environmental factors such as humidity, temperature, gases, and soil quality can be controlled manually. Some integrate sunlight with artificial lighting to achieve the maximum growth of plants.

The whole concept of Vertical Farming is only going to be possible, if there is proper infrastructure available to satisfy the requirements of the project. In vertical farming, you need to have a large area in a tall building, stackable shipping containers, or stackable shelfs that can hold the plants.

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Dickson Despommier, an ecologist and a professor of environmental health sciences and microbiology at Columbia University in New York City, is a staunch supporter of vertical farming. He claims that growing plants within buildings will consume less energy and produce less pollution in comparisons to producing plants on natural-flat landscapes. The chief goal of the vertical farming is to mass produce plants without massive connections with the outside world.

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Vertical farming is a part of the holistic system known as Urban Farming. Urban farming or urban agriculture is the process of cultivating, growing, and processing food in a constraint area. Some consider Hydroponics as part of the vertical farming arena. Hydroponics is the process of growing plants in sand, gravel, or liquid, with added nutrients but without the usual level of soil.

The global population is going to reach the 8 billion finish line very fast. The increasing demand in energy and food is proportional to the increase in population. An increased population puts a lot of pressure on the land and resources of the earth to generate food tirelessly. In the book, The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st Century, Dr. Dickson Despommier puts forth a very interesting statistic. He articulates that, as of now, “there are 7 billion people – half urban and half rural. The question that arises is the amount of land is needed to produce their (7 billion people) food every year. NASA indicates, the amount of land that is needed for farming for the current world population is about the size of South America”. In addition, this land is only considered only for farming and not for goats, sheep, or any other herbivores.

These days, the population, is not only increasing but also becoming more aggressive in nature and demands. Meeting the demand in food with consistent and adequate supply of food. According to Despommier, “it’s estimated that by around 2050, roughly 80 percent of the world will live in very big urban centers”. The main motive behind the idea of mega indoor agriculture is to provide easy access to food and not make it seem like there is only 1 pie of pizza for the next 80 people.

Many economists and analyst have some reservations for world-wide implementation of vertical farms. There are variety of reasons, which indicate that vertical farming is an unfeasible venture. There are some costs that are involved during this project. One of the main costs that is considered for this project is the land cost for building an area dedicated to vertical farming. Most of the population lives in the cities. Opponents of this idea question profitability. Artificial lighting will require high amount of energy (watts), hence, any organization or individual will incur high electricity bills at the end of every month. Even though the sunlight will be available during growing season and some parts of the non-growing season, alternate lighting will be expensive. Heating and other various source of energy will not only drive the production costs upward, but also increase amount of emissions. This will only add more to the already saturated global warming issues.

One of the major concerns regarding the development of vertical farms is the amount of CO2 required to perform photosynthesis. Since, this is an indoor activity, the source of CO2 is to be replaced by a combustion system. Plants extract carbon dioxide (CO2) out of the atmosphere to process photosynthesis, thus reduce the greenhouse gases. The irony in this approach is that a plant is suppose reduce global warming, but it does not have access to the CO2.

The proponents of this project advocate a for vertical farming on a different note and pitch. Many supporters are concerned, primarily, about feeding every-growing population of the planet. Despommier claims that if the structure and infrastructure of vertical farming is designed well, then it may eradicate the necessity of having large amounts of farmland.

According to DigitalTrends, another major benefit that vertical farming brings to the table is the ability to increase its crop production rate. Shigerharu Shimamura, a Japanese plant physiologist, developed an efficient model for manufacturing lettuce. He established an indoor farm facility in an abandoned SONY factory. As of today, his indoor manufacturing facility produces 10,000 heads of lettuce per day. This can act as a big incentive for implementing more vertical farms around the world.


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An indoor farming facility contributes significantly to growing in non-farming seasons. Farmers, through Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA), can modify the number of external factors such as light, humid, temperature, and soil for plants to turn effectively fruitful. Weather, an external factor for instance, is a mercurial factor that can destroy the crop within minutes. Sometimes, the plants or crops that are grown outside, are impacted from the suboptimal peripheral aspects. Recently, you may have seen footages of floods impacting nearly most parts of agriculture land on earth. Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, and the irregular seasons of rains and floods in India all contribute to the destruction of farming lands and plantations. Since vertical farming provides a safe controlled environment, the possibility of losing crops due to bad or extreme weather is almost non-existent. A minor issue in this spectrum is the location of the vertical farm. If the indoor farm facility is in a city or town that is disposed to hurricanes, tornadoes, or earthquakes then it may impact the facility, given the degree of peripheral factor.

Indoor farming will substantially reduce the number of risks caused introduction of infectious diseases in the soil or through other means. Disease like malaria, dengue, and other chemicals such as pesticides and fungicides that directly impact the quality of the crops is going to affect the health of the consumer. Around the world, there is a dearth of fresh produce available for the city centers. Sometime, a certain plant or vegetable will not reach the grocery store due to a shortage caused by heavy rainfall or floods.  This leads to consumer inclining towards unhealthy supplements such as cheap fast food to meet their dietary requirements. 

In today’s day and age, technology is at a level where it can not only improve the quality of life, health, food, and other necessities of lifestyle, but also increase the quality of the products. As we are gradually growing, various questions arise about our methods for living a health, sufficient, and efficient life. How are we going to feed the seven billion-plus people on this planet? Where can we get fresh water for all of us? Do we need land to construct houses or farming? Can we utilize and convert the land for housing and farming into one vertical opportunity for humankind? Vertical farming may have its pros and cons but if we look at it from the perspective of our requirements, the pros outweigh the cons. Many metropolises around the world has shown extensive interests in building their own vertical farming to feed the current and next generation. Imagine the level of cost reduction might occur due to the excess supply of fresh produce all year round. This would help the people living below poverty in various countries. As the phrase indicates, “necessity is the impulse behind invention” vertical farming may turn out to be one of the most beneficial invention for mankind.

References

“Glossary for Vertical Farming.” Association for Vertical Farming, © 2016 Association for Vertical Farming, vertical-farming.net/vertical-farming/glossary-for-vertical-farming/. Accessed 16 Sept. 2017.

Stella, Rick. “Will Vertical Farming Continue to Grow or Has It Hit the Greenhouse Ceiling?”

     Digital Trends, Copyright ©2017 Designtechnica Corporation, www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/future-of-food-vertical-farming/. Accessed 19 Sept. 2017.

Speed, Barbara. "This is why we should be farming in skyscrapers." CityMetric, www.citymetric.com/skylines/why-we-should-be-farming-skyscrapers-1029. Accessed 22 Sept. 2017. 
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