Explosive growth is expected to take place in the world’s urban centers as we reach 2050. To keep these people from starvation, architects and farmers have combined their talents to create Vertical Farming. Although not entirely new, these farms are becoming more efficient and may appear as skyscraper greenhouses throughout many urban cities. Vertical farming can take many architectural shapes and offers a number of key solutions to the problems of efficient food growth.
Food supplies are more secure with vertical farming. Production can continue year around, even during long draughts, which seem to be more frequent as the world undergoes climate change. In Nature Climate Change: The Global Groundwater Crisis, James Famiglietti, a leading hydrologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory warns that groundwater depletion poses a far greater threat to global water security than is currently acknowledged. His research team employs satellites and computer modeling to track changing freshwater availability and groundwater depletion around the world. Joe Romm’s Climate Progress article notes that the groundwater in the U.S. High Plains, California’s Central Valley, China, India, and other aquifers is being pumped out faster than can be naturally replenished. Vertical farming allows fruits and vegetables that may be in high demand to be grown all year without concerns over seasonal rainfalls or droughts.
Vertical farms utilize more efficient, soil-free hydroponic systems, so they need less water. Some use advanced new systems like Aeroponics, which grow plants in mists that efficiently provide roots with nutrients, hydration and oxygen. This results in faster growing cycles and more biomass than other farming systems. These closed-looped systems recirculate nutrient rich solutions and use 95 percent less water than field farming.
Instead of “consuming” rainforest land and harming untouched parts of the earth, vertical farming helps preserve the environment by growing our food in cities. As noted in Crop Farming Review, one indoor acre is equivalent to 4-6 outdoor acres or more, depending on the crop. For strawberries, a single indoor acre may produce a yield equivalent to 30 acres. Existing farms could be reverted to their natural state to promote the regrowth of trees for CO2 sequestration.
Fewer Diseases and Toxins:
Because of their design, indoor vertical “fields” can more easily be protected from pests, so fewer herbicides or insecticides are needed. Result: more fresh, toxin-free produce.
Reduced Transport & Less Pollution:
Food can be grown in high-rise urban buildings and sold directly to consumers without the need for carbon-emitting transport. Produce sold closer to where it’s grown also means fresher fruits and vegetables with less spoilage.
Reduced Light Energy:
Lit by LEDs that mimic sunlight, vertical farms use software that regulates the amount of light energy plants need to grow. Crop Farming Review also notes that vertical farms can even generate power. While a 30-story vertical farm may use million kwh of electricity, it could generate up to 56 million kwh through the use of biogas digesters and by capturing solar energy.