Since the dawn of time, people have been growing their produce, fruits, herbs, and every other essential food in the traditional way of horizontal farming. Now, due to climate change, atmosphere deterioration, rising temperatures, and other natural phenomena, farming has become increasingly difficult and many farms can not produce the quality and quantity they once did.
There may be a new technique to save our crops and also contribute to sustainability – vertical farming. Vertical farming is the practice of planting and growing crops in an indoor, controlled environment, where the only way to grow is up. Plants are arranged in rows and stacked spaciously on top of each other, dramatically increasing productivity and environmental quality.
A growing issue with traditional farming, besides climate change, is the harsh soil conditions; it’s also the reason why farming is not a prominent global process, many areas can not house or birth crops due to the terrain or weather. But, soil isn’t needed for vertical farming, so this practice can essentially be completed anywhere! This practice also uses infrared LED lights, which cuts out the need for sun, so crops can be grown annually and not have to be reliant on certain seasons.
There are many advantages to vertical farming, many include increased quantities and quality of foods, reduced transportation, reduction in the need for natural resources, the need for less land, a complete elimination of pesticides and harmful fertilizers, and the major factor of the reduction of water use. Our Earth consists of about 70% water, with only 2.5% being fresh and only 1% of that is easily accessible for farming, but farming globally consumes 70% of the Earth’s water. The use of irrigation and purifying processes, allows the water used in vertical farming to be cleaned and reused over and over.
But with high advantages, comes disadvantages – high energy usage and slow product profitability. Over the past couple of years, vertical farming plants have been established across Europe, gaining high popularity, but also high flaws. From December of 2020 to July of 2022 consumer energy prices have increased by 58% and Europe’s operational costs have increased by 40%. Not only does it increase energy usage but also energy prices, possibly leading to the shut down of many. Investors have also begun to tighten their finances or pull out of deals because of the slow turnout consumer rate of these products. With inflation, the cost of the products that do hit stores are much higher than traditionally farmed goods, deeming the question of location. Many vertical farming plants would have a better chance at survival and higher productivity in cheaper energy areas – such as the Middle East, where they import almost 100% of their foods due to difficult environmental conditions. But in turn, this can raise transportation and export costs of goods for other countries.
Vertical farming is a fantastic, sustainable, and eco-friendly farming practice, but there are multiple factors and flaws that need to be laid out in order to bring efficiency to this strong alternative.