Vertical farming – What is good and what isn’t

   WHAT IS GOOD

. In traditional farming that takes place horizontally, acres and acres of land goes waste if the  produce fails. On the other hand, with Vertical Farming land is not an issue at all. As crops expand upward, land needed is much lesser. What if there is no land to spare at all? Not to worry. If you have an extra room inside your home that will do just fine. Like the landscape architect from Seattle who put his spare garage to good use by starting Vertical Farming.

. In #TraditionalFarming we hear woes of how a drought or floods caused misery in farmers. With vertical farming all the action takes place in a controlled environment, indoors. So inclement weather will never be a factor here. A lack of or excess rains will not hamper your produce. With vertical farming, large-scale production takes place. And all year round at that.

. #VerticalFarming is done without making use of any chemicals. No pesticides or fertilizer even. Thus the food that is produced in this manner is fresh and good for health as well. The worry of contaminated  manure is also taken out of the picture as Vertical farming can be done as well using techniques like #Hydroponics. No soil used in the process, no polluted irrigation water even.

. Vertical farming has the potential to reduce the effects of #GlobalWarming to a very large extent. Farms inside buildings in urban places will surely negate the harm of poisonous gases released by fossil fuels.Deforestation that is turning our green spaces into concrete jungles to sustain ever growing populations will come down.

. Maximum utilisation of available resources is one of the great attributes of Vertical farming. Abandoned buildings, warehouses, godowns and all such structures in urban settings can be converted  into efficient Vertical farms. Considerable time and money spent in transporting food thousands of
miles is saved.

. Water is a precious resource of our planet that is slowly but surely becoming scarce and it is not  out of the realm of possibility that one day there will be very little left. Vertical farming helps  recycle and reuse black water that would have otherwise have gone waste. Frugal consumption of water for farming is another big plus. Also sewage is converted to top soil that can then be processed   and used as drinking water.

WHAT ISN’T

. Depending on the kind of setup that is there in place, some forms of Vertical farming can require manual monitoring and are likely to be labour intensive. Vertical farming ensures there are no insects around a produce so pollination might be a bit worrisome. Things are moving gradually to a   mechanised form with vertical farming where you can be in a different location and yet use an App to keep an eye on your vertical farm. But not every farm is that advanced.

. A big drawback is that not all fruits and vegetables respond that well to farming in a controlled environment and some crops need a natural setting for growing purpose. But with agrarian techniques  related to vertical farming improving constantly even this is set to change. Which is why many crops  being grown today in Vertical farms are the very ones considered impossible to grow in artificial conditions.

. The big turnoff for many when it comes to Vertical Farming is the high costs that can be entailed in  the process. From procuring land in urban centers to use of LED lights to compensate for lack of adequate sunlight, if you do not plan your Vertical farm smartly, it can cost quite a bit.

Vertical farming – What’s it all about?

  #What – The rationale is simple really. More people populating our planet day after day means more mouths to feed. Land needed for growing crops is going to become scarce, if it has not already. As the name amply suggests, Vertical farming is all about growing crops, upwards. Though the concept of Vertical farming sounds relatively new it was first used by a writer in a book of the same name more than a century ago. Unlike the traditional methods of farming, it is always done indoors. As long as these are vertically inclined surfaces be it large shipping crates or containers will both do just fine. Typically vertical farms are enclosed in a PVC roofing surrounded by netted walls to ensure that the plants get natural sunlight. The credit for the first when it comes to Vertical farm goes to the country of Armenia where a complex with high rise farms is supposed to have existed as far back as the 1950s. Our #Urban mega cities are lacking in the two basic things needed for #Agriculture – Land and water. And vertical farming is the prudent way forward.

#Where – One option is to grow crops within multi storeyed buildings using artificial conditions. This is why sometimes this method is also referred to as high rise farming. From large warehouses to dilapidated buildings and discarded airport hangars, vertical farms are coming up in the most unlikeliest of places. Last year saw the opening of a massive 69,000 sq.ft vertical farm in New Jersey and it is reputed to be the world’s largest. Then there is the unique case of #Singapore where more than 90% of the food is imported from outside due to dearth of land. Thanks to #VerticalFarming that is catching up in a big way, Singapore is gradually reducing it’s reliance on other nations. In nearby Japan a tsunami in Fukushima led to a nuclear accident leaving large parts of farmland unusable. The only safe alternative – vertical farming. In our very own India it is only certain individual entrepreneurs who are taking the initiative to invest in Vertical farms.

#How –  At the heart of Vertical farming is #Hydroponics. In layman’s terms it is a system where one can grow plants without making use of #Soil. The idea is to give a plant the nutrients that it requires (which is usually a solution of water combined with fertilizer) at the right time and in just the right proportion. Where water and land used in vertical farming is much lesser and the yields are much higher the big spending is likely to be in providing light to growing plants. Then there is the other part of vertical farming that allows one to farm both plants and fish alongside using the technique of #Aquaponics. Here the waste produced by the fish is used as a nutrient for the plants. The plants in turn purify the water in which the fish are farmed. The downside is that it is much more expensive than raising fish in let us say, open water systems like ponds and lakes.

#Why – Vertical farming makes use of lesser amount of land and since the sky is the giddy limit as far as how high one can go, the agricultural produce is likely to be eight to ten times higher. Though not all crops can be grown using vertical farming, the ones that can be are grown all year round. No dependence on favorable climate nor is there a chance of adverse effects in case of droughts or floods. Studies have also shown that not only is less land used but even water consumed during vertical farming is substantially lesser. As the techniques of agriculture in controlled environments get better, LED lights have been able to provide the requisite light to the growing plants. Another big plus of Vertical farming is that the food is grown in close proximity to the consumer meaning that it will be more fresh. Also there is much less money spent on transporting it. Recently vertical farming has been used to farm fish in closed loop systems.