• Blaze Horn

Is vertical farming a sustainable solution for the future?

Updated: Nov 14, 2021

Vertical farming provides an opportunity for sustainable agriculture for the future. We explore the opportunities convert used space and protect undeveloped land, and how it could effect greenhouse gas emissions from food.

The sky's the limit when it comes to vertical farming.

According to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), almost 690 million people are currently going hungry.

There'll be 9.7 billion people on the planet by 2050. Population growth, increasing urbanisation, climate change, and very importantly resource limitations, are only going to worsen the situation, if not addressed.

New approaches are needed to secure food production in the coming decades, and vertical farming is one future possibility.

The technology has the potential to produce safe, nutritious food in large quantities, but use less resources than current traditional farming methods.

Seems like the perfect solution, right?

What is vertical farming?

The definition of vertical Farming is

a commercial farming system whereby plants and animals are cultivated for food, fuel, and other services, by artificially stacking them above each other.

Nearly every vertical farm utilises one of three soil-free methods to provide the plants with nutrients:

  1. Hydroponic: growing in soil-free fertiliser solution.

  2. Aeroponic: growing in an air/fog atmosphere, without any soil, and little or no water.

  3. Aquaponics: whereby the nutrient-rich water from raising fish is used as a fertiliser for the soilless plants, and, then, in turn, the plants purify the water for the fish.

Check out the video below, to get an idea of how it all works.

Vertical farming provides a paradigm shift in the way we know and do agriculture.

It gives us the opportunity to convert unused space, like abandoned urban properties, mine sites, or even the roofs, basements and sides of buildings into food production centres. This also means we can protect our undeveloped land (and wallets) and avoid the need for new, expensive constructions.

But it's always important to remember that any new solution often pairs with some challenges...

Crops still need light, carbon dioxide and water, which is available freely in nature. In the case of vertical farming, these need to be supplied at a cost.

What does this mean for Floop?

Vertical farming completely turns the way we view food production on its head! With vertical farming, crops such as coffee, which have been traditionally being grown in countries such as Brazil, or Ghana, could be grown in the UK.

This makes life cycle assessment (LCA) calculations a little different, but still totally possible. For example, the transport emissions for cocoa beans grown in the UK will be much lower than those from Ghana... but artificial heat needed in Britain, to match the warmth of Africa, may increase CO2eq from the growth stage.

It'll be fascinating to see how new farming methods influence CO2eq emissions and water usage. We're actually really excited at the prospect of being able to provide Floop users with different calculations for the same type of product, depending on how and where they're grown.

Any thoughts? Feel free to post in the comments below.

Our Sources:

1. Banerjee, C. 2014. Up, Up and Away! The Economics of Vertical Farming. Journal of Agricultural Studies, 2(1).

2. Dirkes, L., Massanés, J.D., Böttjer, R., Storck, J.L., and Ehrmann, A. 2021. Outdoor vertical farming on textile substrates. IOP Conference Series: Materials Science and Engineering.

3. Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO). 2021. Hunger and Food Insecurity.

4. Mistra, A.P., and Sahoo, J.P. 2021. Vertical Farming - The Foreseeable Future of Agriculture. Agricultural Letters (ISSN: 2582-6522).

5. Saxena, N.N. 2021. The Review on Techniques of Vertical Farming. International Journal of Modern Agriculture, 10(1).