A not-so-helpful list of things and confused minds were the only 2 things left, when the family gathered to discuss about a perfect birthday gift for Uncle Robbie. The gift had to be special, as he was retiring from work as well. The planned surprise party with family only and the cake was all decided. Finally his daughter suggested something unique – “how about we set up a little garden in the balcony, as dad loves plants and farming crops?” For a minute everyone was quiet, after which everyone again started pitching in with the ideas of setting up a convenient garden for growing crops – a Vertical Farm!
I had heard a lot about vertical farming in urban spaces, be it for business purposes or for personal interests, it has proved to be useful. Vertical farming is a method of growing produce in an urban environment, on a vertically inclined surface. Rather than growing a single layer of crops over a large area of land, crop stacks are cultivated in an upward direction. In vertical agriculture, an artificial environment is created within a facility utilizing technologies which can help plants to grow and become more nutritious in a short span of time, which when compared to traditional farming.
How Vertical Farming helps? According to The Population Reference Bureau, the global share of urban residents was estimated at 51% by 2010. This proportion is expected to increase to 70% of the world’s population by 2050. With so many mouths to feed, the task of producing more food with the limited resources that we have whilst simultaneously trying to reduce our carbon emissions to protect the environment and the crops we are trying to grow seems almost impossible.
However, despite this uncertainty, there are some options and choices such as vertical farming to help deal with the problem. These include reduce usage of land, water, chemicals and fertilizers, protecting soil and increasing efficiency through technology, protecting bio-diversity, provide shelter from changing weathers and bringing farming into unused spaces. In vertical farming, crops are grown inside controlled temperature and light, which also helps to grow more organic varieties through-out the year. Additionally in indoor farming, farmers are protected from heavyweight farming equipment, harmful chemicals, diseases and natural calamities.
Increasing awareness of the importance of alternative farming, due to less availability of fertile agricultural land and increasing population, is the key factor expected to stimulate demand from industry. Europe is expected to see substantial growth over the projected period as a result of the increasing expansion of genetically modified crop technology. Increasing adoption of nanotechnology and robotics for farming also enhances demand on the regional market.
Restrictions faced by Vertical Farming Apart from the positive aspects, there are certain limitations on the variety of crops grown such as temperature adjustment, adequate management of water supply, the identification and supply of nutrients to plants, the decision on the growth mechanism to be adopted and the individual harvesting time for plants which must be considered before planting begins. Production of biopharmaceutical products is the opportunistic factor for the global vertical farming market. Also the cost of skyscrapers for farming, energy and various technology costs, as well as the need for skilled labour are some of the other confines of vertical farming.
However the major driving factors for the global vertical farming market are growing demand for high quality food with minimal environmental impact. Also, the surging trend towards no use of pesticides, no-weather-related crop failures, environment-friendly methods, increasing urban population, and growth in crop production year-round are driving the growth of the market. Major market players included in this field are AeroFarms, Sky Greens, Illumitex, Inc., Everlight Electronics Co., Ltd, Green Sense Farms, LLC, Urban Crops Solutions, Vertical Farm Systems etc.
Although vertical farming is still a new concept of farming, many companies are still finding ways to produce crops at economic rates. But it will take a concentrated effort from all of the major agriculture producers to make it possible and ensure that everyone has access to safe food from safe farms. It will not only have a positive impact on our health, but will guarantee a healthier world too. Before I end the blog, I would like to share that our uncle really loved his gift as he enjoys farming in his balcony.