The need for a better system of farming is increasing by the day. The world population keeps growing and is expected to continue to increase in the future; the system of farming catering for the feeding needs of the world as of today is gradually declining.
This is a result of several factors, with land being the chief. The projected increase in population also requires land for housing the growing population. Since almost everyone wants to live in the city, the land available for farming might not be enough for cultivation.
This, therefore, requires an alternative means to increase agricultural production to cater to global consumption. With limited land space, specific farming systems where crops are not planted into the soil but on the vertical stack in a controlled environment might solve the problem above.
This system of farming is known as indoor vertical farming. In the future, we’ll be discussing indoor vertical farming as a possible means for global consumption.
Ever wondered why books are arranged in a vertical stack in libraries? It ensures that many readers are set to occupy the limited spaces possible. Indoor agriculture utilizes this pattern to ensure numerous crops are planted on small pieces of land.
Vertical farming is a method of farming where plants are cultivated and stacked vertically in a controlled environment. It allows for increased yield per piece of land. This farming system is carried out indoors, in rooftops, warehouses, supermarkets, skyscrapers, etc. This ensures that the plants are not exposed to harsh weather conditions.
What is Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA)
Control environment agriculture, this agricultural system allows crops to be grown in a controlled environment designed to maximize the growth of the produce grown in it. Each crop within the farm is planted to ensure it receives the required nutrient, temperature, and humidity best suitable for the maximum yield of the crop.
Crops are grown above each other to increase yield per acre. Growing crops in this manner on a piece of land produces approximately ten times what is obtainable in traditional farming, where plants are grown horizontally in rows.
There are three types of control environments which include the hydroponic, aquaponic, and aeroponic. In a hydroponic environment, plants are grown in a nutrient-containing solution to support their growth. The first usage of this farming technique was about centuries ago.
The need for indoor vertical farming
1. Lost fertile land
Aside from a large amount of land lost to housing for the ever-growing world population, the system of farming, as well as the continuous farming using the same available land, has rendered it infertile, making it not suitable for farming.
Since vertical farming is a soilless method of planting, the fertility of the soil does not affect the system’s productivity.
Also, steep and sloppy land that will affect the cultivation of plants in traditional farming poses no issue in vertical farming since the crops are not cultivated horizontally on the soil but in an upward arrangement.
2. Manage the use of water
Since plants are grown in a controlled environment, the need for water is reduced to the barest minimum. Indoor vertical farming preserves about 95% of the water required for traditional farming systems since water is recycled in the system. This reduces the amount of water used on the farm and the overall cost of production.
3. Avoid extreme weather
Plants grown in a controlled environment are protected from harsh weather conditions such as drought, erosion, flood, etc. The plants are cultivated in a designed environment required for plant growth.
Plants in this system are not affected by weather variations such as sun or water since they are grown in-door and have been adequately prepared to ensure increased productivity.
4. Preserving food
Crops are planted and transported to supermarkets across a long distance, either by air or road. These crops are kept in the refrigerator to preserve them. The carbon dioxide emissions in the process affect the nutritional value of the yield and the taste.
It ensures that fresh farm produces obtained within minutes of harvest are available for purchase and consumption; these are packed with nutrients and great flavor.
Crops are grown using vertical crop growing to eliminate pesticides on the farm. Since plants are cultivated indoors in a controlled environment, where pests and rodents are not welcomed, there is no need for the use of pesticides, thereby reducing the amount spent on pesticides as well as preventing water pollution caused by pesticides during erosion.
The crops produced are also free of pesticides and chemicals that affect the crop during harvest. These ensure that crops harvested are safe for consumption without the effect of pesticides.
6. Year-round crop availability
With a vertical farming system, crops are made available to consumers throughout the year since plants are grown in an effort n to the climate designed to increase yield. Crops are therefore not limited to a particular season and can be grown throughout the year.
This, thus, ensures that all crops are available for consumption all year round. Waiting for a certain period to get a particular crop type becomes Impossible.
Disadvantages of indoor vertical farming
The numerous excellent advantages of vertical farming do not come without their fair share of disadvantages which include:
1. Vertical farming is expensive
The cost of setting a controlled environment for growing crops is exorbitant compared to traditional farming, which requires little money.
Setting up a vertical farm requires a considerable amount of money to set up the system, unlike conventional agriculture, where getting seeds and space to plant is enough to kick off your journey in agriculture. Starting vertical agriculture will require a substantial amount to set the plan in motion.
2. It requires special operation techniques
Since plants are grown in a controlled environment with no exposure to sunlight and rain, managing the plant using an artificial source of light, water, and nutrient conditioned for each plant requires the service of an expert to make the operation successful.
The traditional farming system is done by everyone, even behind the home in the garden. With little or no knowledge at all, you can begin planting. In vertical agriculture, you want to ensure you are equipped with knowledge for the successful running of the farm
3. Pollination becomes difficult
Indoor vertical farming reduces the chances of pollination of flowers necessary for producing fruits in plants. Since the natural setting has been disturbed, the pollination of plants by insects is affected because plants are cultivated indoors.
Without pollination, it becomes impossible for the production of fruits in plants. For pollination to occur, artificial support of the system will be required.
4. Overdependence on technology
The system is run heavily by technology to provide sunlight, humidity, water, and nutrients needed for growth. The system’s dependence on technology is responsible for the low labor used in the system.
Any hindrance to this system, such as power failure or break, can affect the smooth running of the system. This can result in partial or total disruption of the system.
Can vertical farming solve the proposed world’s agricultural product needs? Planting crops in layers above one another in a controlled environment ensures that large numbers of plants are grown in small spaces.
With the advantages above and disadvantages, combining both farming systems might be necessary to feed the growing world’s population.
Vertical farming is expensive, but it helps manage the available land to yield high productivity, and traditional agriculture or horizontal farming is affordable. Both can be adopted together to cater to the feeding of the world’s population.
Some farms such as breweries have already started utilizing the vertical growing system and enjoying the perks of productivity and fresh fruit that comes with growing plants in a controlled environment.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Are indoor vertical farms the future of agriculture? What problem does it solve?
Indoor vertical farms have the potential to play a significant role in the future of agriculture. With their efficient use of space, controlled environment, and year-round production capabilities, they can address challenges such as limited arable land and climate change impacts.
Vertical farms offer advantages like reduced water usage, fewer pesticides, and shorter supply chains. However, the scalability, cost-effectiveness, and energy requirements of indoor vertical farming still need further development and optimization.
While they hold promise, a combination of different farming methods is likely to shape the future of sustainable agriculture.
2. Do vertical farms use soil?
No, vertical farms typically do not use soil for growing plants. Instead, they use alternative methods such as hydroponics, aeroponics, or aquaponics. Hydroponics involves growing plants in a nutrient-rich water solution, while aeroponics involves suspending plant roots in the air and misting them with nutrient-rich water.
Aquaponics combines hydroponics with aquaculture, where plants grow in water enriched by fish waste. These soil-less techniques allow for precise control of nutrient delivery, water usage, and plant growth, making it efficient and space-saving.
3. What is horizontal farming?
Horizontal farming is not a widely recognized term in the field of agriculture. However, if we consider it in the context of traditional farming practices, it generally refers to the conventional method of farming where crops are grown in horizontal fields or plots of land.
It involves the use of soil, natural sunlight, and traditional farming techniques like tilling, planting, and harvesting.
Horizontal farming is the conventional approach that has been practiced for centuries and is still widely used today, although newer methods like vertical farming are gaining popularity.Whats