“Why Grow Out, When You Can Grow Up?”-Vertical Farming

By: Shelbey Walker

It is no secret that the world population is increasing and the land available for vertical-farming-diagramconventional farming is decreasing by ever growing urban and suburban areas.  With approximately eleven percent of the land surface being used for growing plants, farmers are now having to find new techniques to produce enough food to feed the global population that will soon reach 7.5 billion people.  A new trend that we could be seeing in urban areas: vertical farming.  So, my question is: why grow out, when you can grow up?

Vertical farming can best be visualized as an abandoned building or skyscraper capable of growing various produce and products throughout the urban/suburban areas with minimal square footage.  Imagine a skyscraper, with each level being used to grow a certain crop, product, or animal within the city.  There are many possibilities to the plethora of products that could and can be grown in such a way.  Examples could include: vegetables, flowers, fish, smaller livestock animals, etc.

How does vertical farming work?  Well let’s look at AeroFarms® who has already set up a few vertical farms within the state of New Jersey.  This company uses an aeroponic system which means the roots of the plants are spritzed with water in a closed loop system so they have lowered their water usage to 95% less than conventional farming.  With the enclosed space, they also do not use pesticides so this would be a considered organic type of farming.  Inside the various trays in which the plants sit in-on top of a cloth medium used for the germination, growing, and harvesting of the plants- the company uses LED lights that are catered to different plants which allows the plants to use their energy in the most efficient way possible.  Controlled lighting also allows for the company to control the size, texture, flavor, and nutrition of each plant.  With their technology, AeroFarms® can grow plants in half the time that it would take in a field.

This type of farming can have many benefits to the economy and environment.  Growing fresh produce within the urban/suburban areas would allow for a healthier-and potentially cheaper- substitute to unhealthy foods (fast food restaurants, chips, cookies).  The food would be grown locally and closer to various supermarkets that could sell the produce.  Cutting down the cost of healthier foods to be shipped to restaurants and stores could impact the economy greatly, and this would also allow for more job opportunities within these farms.  Cities are considered “hot spots” for the environment due to lack of greenery within the area, and by bringing vertical gardens into the urban areas, we could alleviate the amount of pollution that is coming from cities since it would be filtered by the plants.

us-map-with-color Cities such as Austin, Texas, Chicago, Illinois, Detroit, Michigan, and New York City, New York I believe would be best suited for this revolutionary type of agriculture farming within the urban and suburban areas.  With the creation of jobs within the farms, the potential environmental benefits, and the healthy food options I think vertical farming could be seen popping up in a city near you.  Let me know what you think of vertical farming.  Why grow out, when you can grow up?

Sources:

http://www.economist.com/node/17647627

http://www.verticalfarm.com/

http://www.ruaf.org/urban-agriculture-what-and-why

http://inhabitat.com/top-10-cities-in-the-us-for-urban-farming/

Pictures: Google Images

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