In case you haven’t heard, the future of the agricultural industry is on shaky grounds. The population growth rate is starting to noticeably outpace our capacity to feed people worldwide, and our resources of fresh water and land are quickly disappearing as climate change rages on.
Because of this, new farming technologies like vertical farming are coming to light — and they may very well be the answer to more efficient cultivation.
But what is vertical farming and what does a vertical farm look like?
Vertical Farming 101🌽
Vertical farming is the latest innovation in growing crops and plants. It works by stacking crops and plants on multi-level racks within a controlled environment structure and a hydroponic component to supply a sufficient water source. Each rack is stacked vertically above the other with enough space for the vegetation to grow upwards.
This arrangement of the vertical farm will allow farmers to significantly reduce the space needed to grow food as they can move away from overworked land and utilize warehouses, industrial buildings, and other structures. This is excellent news for urban areas as well, as regular buildings can be converted to vertical farms — which would give a whole new meaning to “farm to table” as it’ll reduce the overall costs for storage and logistics of the foods.
Here are some fast facts about vertical farming that everyone needs to know:
- The crops produced on vertical farms are free from harmful chemicals, including pesticides and herbicides. This is due to being in a sterile and controlled environment that prevents insects from getting in and unwanted bacterial growth on growing plants.
- Because of the controlled environment, any crops grown in a vertical farm will be 100% organic.
- Vertical farms will be fully controlled based on controlled-environment agriculture (CEA) technology — which will ensure that the crops are grown within the perfect microclimate to enable high yields year-round.
- The CEA technology also eliminates uncertainties, such as flooding or droughts, making it easy to predict each yield.
- The harvest cycles will be much faster as well due to the controlled environment as CEA technology regulates the most important variables to provide optimal conditions, including:
- Lighting (via LED artificial lights)
- Climate control
- CO2 enrichment
How Did Vertical Farming Get Its Start? 🧑🌾
Interestingly enough, vertical farming isn’t a new concept. The concept itself actually dates back 2,500 years to the Babylonian Hanging Gardens. Additionally, hydroponic farming (which is the water component of vertical farming) also dates back to the Ancient Aztec chinampas — which were the floating river rafts they used to grow certain crops on.
By the 1600s, a more technologically advanced form of vertical farming came around. This was thanks to the French and Dutch farmers who developed a way to grow warmer-climate fruits out of necessity by using stone walls that retained heat well — which became a way to create their own microclimates.
By the 1900s, the actual term “vertical farming” was coined in Armenia, but in 1991, the concept itself was articulated and put into experimental use. Since then, vertical farming has been used by small farming companies and is about to become much more widespread.
The Benefits of Vertical Farming 👍
Vertical farming is associated with tons of benefits as it’s a farming model that can provide a maximum and predictable yield while using minimal space and resources.
Here is an overview of the benefits of vertical farms:
- Utilization of less water and space: With vertical farming, farmers can use up to 98% less water and up to 99% less land while maintaining a perpetual harvest. By 2050, it is estimated that 80% of the world’s population will live in urban areas, which means a higher demand for food and vertical farming can cater to that with ease.
- Increased yields year-round: This farming model is capable of producing crop yields of 240 times that of the traditional yields land farming currently sees. What’s more, these yields will be ongoing and consistent thanks to the controlled environments, which means all crops can be produced without issue.
- CEA technology reduces environmental impacts: Indoor farming utilizes CEA technology which provides optimal conditions for crops and plants. By controlling all of the necessary environmental factors, farmers can grow crops that wouldn’t otherwise be suitable within their area’s climate or weather.
- No more food deserts. Heavily populated areas have what is known as a “food desert” problem, meaning there’s less access to fresh produce due to the lack of land. Vertical farming solves this problem as these farms can be constructed without land and with a very small footprint as they can be integrated into pre-existing buildings and even rooftops.
- Reduction in arable land: Arable land is quickly eroding due to traditional farming practices and agricultural pollution. Since vertical farms are contained within a greenhouse or other building structure, they can be built anywhere and do not require acres and acres of topsoil. This means no more land erosion or soil depletion.
- Chemical-free farming: With CEA technology, there’s no need for harmful chemicals like pesticides or herbicides as the environment is sterile and controlled. This means 100% organic produce and healthier populations.
- Food safety: Food recalls are incredibly common as produce can easily be tainted by bacteria like E. coli, salmonella, and botulism. Not only is this a waste of crop yields, but it’s dangerous for the public. Vertical farming can eliminate this issue due to having a carefully controlled and sterile environment that makes the introduction of pathogens and other contaminants much less likely to occur.
Vertical farming is a practice that’s on the rise and can very likely become the solution to food insecurity around the world. It may also be one of the many answers to the climate crisis which is in a vicious cycle of its own with the agricultural industry.
Build Your Vertical Farming Warehouse With Us 🔨
The APX Construction team specializes in commercial construction, including the planning and building of vertical farming warehouses. If you could use our help, get in touch with us today to learn more about partnering with us and building the farms of the future across the United States!