The Future of Agriculture: Vertical Farming


With an increasing focus on environmentally sustainable initiatives, traditional farming has received bad press for its impact on the planet. This is compounded by an ever-growing population, which ultimately contributes to more environmental damage.

To combat this issue, high-tech solutions have been introduced to facilitate controlled-environment agriculture. This could potentially transcend the farming industry as we know it, where it's vital alternative measures are implemented to alleviate the problems caused by conventional farming. What's great about these methods is farmers can incorporate the equipment they're accustomed to, since the farming practice itself is aligned with normal ideals. One newly proposed method is vertical farming, which is demonstrated in the picture below:

The Future of Agriculture: Vertical Farming

Image Credit: Vincent Callebaut Architects

By growing upwards rather than outwards, less land has to be destroyed to make room for farming fields, which significantly benefits the environment. Before we assess the viability of vertical farming, let's first evaluate why traditional farming is an unsustainable practice.

Is Conventional Farming Unsustainable?

The negative environmental impact of traditional farming is steadily rearing its ugly head, in correlation with a steadily rising population. We are slowly experiencing an over-consumption of water, a decline in soil productivity, the destruction of tropical forests, and a loss of wildlife habitats including wetlands. This has contributed to higher levels of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases, where urban farming has taken preference over productive farmlands.

With considerable environmental concerns, farmers are also worried about their economic sustainability, since their agribusinesses are concentrated on less land than ever before. Farmers have very little control over prices, with mass, centralized farming methods being at the forefront of society.

What Tools Are Involved?

Vertical farming involves various tools, technologies, and techniques for functionality. These allow farmers to produce nutritious, tasty foods at high yields. Tools associated with the method include:

  • CO2 Injection: Essential for enhanced photosynthesis, which ultimately contributes to higher yields. CO2 injections are critical for a process called carbon assimilation.
  • Polarized Water: Enables water to hold onto more nutrients, while increasing the redox effect and eliminating bacteria.
  • Water Tanks: To store the water necessary for operations, farmers can use regular water tanks. This creates unprecedented convenience, where an equipment overhaul isn't required.
  • Microalgae Photobireactor: Create a light source which cultivates phototrophic microorganisms, including cyanobacteria, purple bacteria, mosses, plants, and microalgae.
  • Climate Control: It's essential to control the environment when vertical farming. It relies on the correct humidity, a steady temperature, and an isolation from external air. This reduces environmental stress and exposure to harmful pests.
  • Scalability: CEA methods are highly scalable, ranging from ¼ acre operations to multiples of 3 acres.

Is Vertical Farming a Realistic Alternative?

To counteract the aforementioned issues, farmers are increasingly converting to Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA). One method that falls under this umbrella is vertical farming, which addresses some of the associated problems. A company that's pioneering this measure is IGES Canada Ltd, who is currently focusing on rebuilding communities and reducing CO2 emissions. There are various advantages to this approach, not just in terms of environmental impact, but productivity too. Vertical farming is considered 100 times more efficient in terms of space needed, and is 70-90% less reliant on water! Foods are grown without pesticides, are nutrient-rich, and ultimately contribute to a significantly lower CO2 footprint. Vertical farms can be built anywhere, meaning there are no limitations preventing food being grown in communities.

The technology is expected to spread across the northern regions of Canada in the near future, where it will be applied to grow herbs, soft fruit, and micro-greens. With a capacity for 912 metric tons per year in a 10,000 square meter space, the possibilities are endless. This will profoundly impact local communities, where IGES Canada predicts they'll be able to roll out their produce for less than most organic items. What's most important is a commitment to cultural preservation, which is definitely needed in today's society. With various successful examples popping up across the globe, it appears vertical farming has a bright future, but it will probably be many years before vertical farming supplants its conventional predecessor.

I hope you have found this article informative, and have a better understanding of how together we can change the world for the better. If you'd like to contribute to the conversation, please comment below and kick-start the discussion.

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Comments (2)

lili, Student • 2018

very interesting topic.. I've been looking for such information about urban agriculture and vertical farming as this is my senior project topic. Hope you show more articles about this, thanks!!

Technostruct, Engineer • 2018

This is the information I am looking for. This article on Building Information Modelng is clear and easy to understand. I'm learning more about this. Hope you bring more things related to it. Thanks a lot!