ARTICLE: Vertical Farming: Why Grow Up?
It’s a quickly growing trend in the area of sustainable farming and agriculture technology—vertical farms have popped up around the world from the US and Canada, to Japan and the UK.
It all started with a demand. The growing population demanded more food and fast. Traditional agriculture was devouring resources like land and water. In just the past decade, agriculture water consumption has grown twice the rate of the population, imbalancing the ratio of resource to demand.
At the same time, demand grew for locally-grown, affordable, fresh, and sustainable food. With so many requirements for farmers to meet, something had to give. Compromises resulted in high-priced organic and sustainable food due to its limited supply, separate transportation from other goods, greater labour demand, additional land use, and added resources.
Today, the high demand and rising food prices are contrasted with a pressing responsibility to put more care into the earth’s resources and the food we eat. But how do those fit together? The solution seemed impossible. Until vertical farming.
What is vertical farming?
The concept of vertical farming is fairly simple: layers of crops are stacked upwards instead of one layer spread outwards. Crops are basically grown on shelves that move up and down in a contained area. This system uses fewer resources while keeping the temperature and humidity at just the right level for the produce to grow. Right now, most vertical farms can grow produce such as lettuce, leafy greens, herbs, and microgreens.
The benefits of vertical farming
How does vertical farming address the issues of demand and sustainability? The structure of vertical farms—in other words, going up instead of out—means that farmers can produce exponentially more product on a much smaller piece of land. With the expenses of owning land and the scarcity of arable farmland, farming is usually restricted to the right areas of the world and for people who can afford the costs of land owning. With vertical farming, the options open up. Farming can happen all over the world—even in more densely populated areas or previously inhospitable conditions. With vertical farming, food is fresh and locally-grown, all year long.
Additional benefits include remote monitoring, access to world-class controlled environment agriculture experts, fully-tested commercial-scale production levels, easy scalability to meet demand, and environmental sustainability. This agricultural system creates ease on every level of production.
How does vertical farming fit with other forms of agriculture?
Technology has always been a part of agriculture advancement. Even as early as the 18th century, farmers were developing walking plows into gang plows into gasoline tractors. With new technology came more efficiency.
Vertical farming is just another step in the process. While there are always questions about which method of agriculture is best, the right choice of method depends on the type of crop, the growing region and the farmer’s current setup or operational plan. In reality, vertical farming is a tool just like any other farming machine used to increase the productivity of the farm and the possible yields.
How to farm vertically: step-by-step
While the concept seems elaborate, the process is simple. The setup can vary slightly but systems, like CubicFarms, all begin inside a closed area such as a shipping container or climate-controlled building. The installed farming system consists of vertically rotating trays where the plants grow. Surrounding the moving trays are LED lights and monitoring systems to make sure the environment stays consistent for optimal plant growth. After that, farmers can almost sit back and relax. The growing system needs watering and monitoring on a regular basis but no manual labour. Farmers can even check in from their phone.
One of the great benefits of vertical farming is that because the climate is completely controlled, the process of growing becomes predictable and repeatable. This greatly simplifies the training needed to become a vertical farmer and opens this industry to a larger market.
Who can be a vertical farmer?
The methods of vertical farming are a series of teachable and repeatable steps, which means almost anyone can learn to be a vertical farmer. It is now possible for current produce distributors, retailers, importers, and wholesalers to become their own supplier. The product can be grown near the point of distribution or consumption and the long travel times are reduced or eliminated.
Get involved with vertical farming
In a world that demands so much from the agricultural industry—sustainability, affordability, and efficiency—vertical farming is a solution incomparable to anything seen before. To get in on vertical farming with CubicFarms you can contact us or explore our website to learn more.