There are many questions related to vertical farming like- How Vertical farming works? How did vertical farming start? and can vertical farming feed the world? How to do Vertical farming at home? How much does Vertical farming cost? How profitable is Vertical farming? Let’s have a look on these-
Vertical farming also known as Indoor farming or Urban agriculture or Controlled environment agriculture.
With the global population set to exceed 10 billion people by 2050, the challenge of providing enough food to everyone in a sustainable, efficient, and cost-effective way is rising significantly. Shedding the restrictions of seasonal weather patterns, overcoming transportation challenges, and significantly enhancing yields, the growing trend of ‘vertical farming’ could herald the future of food production.
How did Vertical farming start?
Vertical farming was first invented by American geologist Gilbert Ellis Bailey in 1915 and later modified by Dickson Despommier in 1999, who was a professor of Public and Environment Health at Columbia University.
But the professor’s farm was not built, rather, the idea of vertical farming was taken by many developers and government for initiating various designs in the field of vertical farming in many different countries.
For thousands of years, human populations have farmed the land for food. But with the sharp rise in the demand for food over recent years due to the increase in population, increased living standards because of which there was a pressure on traditional farming, and it increased gradually. Now, as the modern techniques have enhanced production rates, more than 11% of the world’s total land area is now used for crop production, creating environmental challenges that range from habitat clearing to soil degradation and placing immense pressure on our planet’s resources.
Furthermore, as our cities expand, the distance between suitable farming land and the large populations who consume its produce are growing, raising the impact of transportation. Adding to these challenges is a changing climate that is disrupting seasonal weather patterns and the lack of suitable soils near rapidly expanding areas.
Can Vertical farming feed the world?
No, it cannot feed the whole world as it is just in its developing stage and the world’s population is huge and eventually increasing day by day. Vertical farming can feed only a particular range of area or people, also it is expensive and time taking in comparison to the conventional method of farming. So, it is nearly impossible to feed the world by vertical farming.
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Vertical farming is quite a growing trend, a concept that sees the sprawling crop farms of old condensed into much smaller factory like sites where conditions can be optimized and yields significantly increased.
Facilities like Aerofarms in New Jersey see crops produced in an enclosed environment, where almost everything from the lighting and ambient temperature to soil condition and nutrients are carefully controlled. sites like MIRA’s facility near Tokyo, the world’s largest city, can generate yields 50 to 100 times greater than that of a traditional crop farm.
Geography aside, the creation of controlled conditions delivers many benefits. Firstly, the process of crop production is insulated from seasonal weather patterns that are highly susceptible to disruption as a result of our changing climate.
How to do Vertical farming at home?
It is quite easy to start Vertical farming at home as it does not need much space. It can be started in a small space, say a balcony or kitchen or any other closet or basement.
The requirements are only such, as you should have the ability to control the temperature and to provide artificial light, fertilizer, and water as per requirement. On a vertical farm, lighting, water and temperature can all be optimized to remove climatic risks and enhance production rates.
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The use of a controlled environment also eliminates the losses from birds and insects that must be factored on conventional farms, cutting the need for harmful pesticides to be used and improving the quality of produce. Vertical farms also optimize the level of nutrients that crops receive, solving the challenge of finding a sufficient extent of suitable farming land near a major urban area.
In many instances, soil is removed altogether, and crops are grown on membranes where they are sprayed with nutrient rich solution. Of course, vertical farms do have their limitations and critics have pointed to the level of energy required to maintain such refined environments.
Requirements for Vertical farming-
The facilities use extensive vertical racking to optimize space, as compared to a conventional crop farm enabling it to be located on a far smaller site and much closer to an established urban area. Such a location reduces the extent of haulage or ‘food miles’ required to transport produce to consumers, cutting CO2 emission.
How much does Vertical farming cost?
For setting up a vertical farm on one acre of land it will cost Rs. 110 Lakh to Rs. 150 Lakh except the price of land. Vertical farming is expensive too, the produce from vertical farming is much more expensive as compared to conventionally farmed goods.
How profitable is Vertical farming?
Yes, Vertical farming is profitable for few crops but not for all and as the investment is very high it becomes necessary to have a good profit through growing crops. Lemon, Cinnamon, and lettuces are the high profit crops in vertical farming.
The profitability of vertical farming can be seen by the example that if we grow turmeric in 1 acre, we get the profit of Rs. 2.5 crores. Also, Vertical farming is a one-time investment, only on the infrastructure and if farming done properly the investment money can be get back in 1.5 year only.
While the vertical concept still represents a small part of the global food production industry, the benefits it offers to our ever-expanding population could tilt the farming landscape by 90 degrees. Going vertical allows us to put a lot more product in a single spot. It allows us to circulate air easier, administer light easier, allows us to have massive growing plants.
Less water is used as about a million gallons of water is saved per week and using about 1% of the land compared to traditional farming. In indoor farm, the water is put back into the roots, so they take the water up and they transpire that waiter and after condensing it all it is put back in the system. So, 99% of the water that is transported in the field and lost is captured and recirculated in the farms.
While these concerns are valid, several vertical farms are powered by renewable technologies and recycle many of their resources. The use of energy efficient LED lighting reduces power consumption, while the blue and red shades of light are even more economical to run. The optimized crop production process also allows vertical farmers to reduce the amount of water used and many vertical farms are served by rainwater harvesting system. Some even collect and recycle the water that condenses within the controlled environment itself. The closed cycle approach has the added benefit of preventing nutrients and fertilizers from damaging lands or being washed in rivers and streams.
Though the cost and availability of land for vertical farms in urban areas can prove challenging. Many facilities are finding home in re-purposed shipping containers, former factories, and disused warehouses. It is going to be broadened by including the production of fish and honey while reconnecting consumers with the food production process and establishing sustainable jobs for the surrounding community.
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