Vertical Farming for the Future
What do you think about when you hear about farms or farming? You probably imagine huge fields planted with wheat or corn and a farmer driving a tractor, combine, or other farm machine. People have farmed the land for thousands of years, but that way of producing food might soon end due to increasing populations and limited land. Experts believe that by 2050, the world’s population could reach about nine billion people, with about 80% of them living in cities. All of those people will need up to 70% more food than the world currently produces. However, much of the world is covered by areas unsuitable for farming, such as oceans and deserts, and about 80% of the good, arable land is already in use. How will farmers ever produce enough for everyone to eat?
One possible solution is vertical farming. Dickson Despommier, a professor at Columbia University in New York, believes that growing food and even raising animals inside buildings could help solve the food problem in the future. On a small scale, the roofs of buildings could become gardens where a few people could grow what they need to feed their families. On a larger scale, buildings the size of apartment blocks could become farms, with each floor used to grow a different type of food. Some of the space could even be used for raising animals such as fish. Eventually, traditional farms could be a thing of the past.
Growing food indoors is not a new idea. Many people already use greenhouses to produce food when the growing conditions outdoors are unsuitable for farming, such as in winter or in small spaces. Indoor farming could solve many of the problems farmers currently face, including bad weather, insects, and the loss of soil due to drought or overfarming. An indoor farm would be climate-controlled and mostly insect-free, making it easier to grow large crops with less waste. A sample vertical farm in Dover, England, has already been very successful; the crop yields from this space have been twenty times as large as on traditional farms. The techniques for indoor farming would be new for many people, but there are already university programs in place for teaching them.
Vertical farming has many benefits, but it also has drawbacks. The biggest barrier is the cost. Setting up a vertical farm could cost about fifty or sixty million dollars with all of the cost of developing technology to keep the place running. Providing heat, light, and air for the plants could be a very complicated and expensive process, likely making food more expensive than it is now. Vertical farming would also decrease the types of food that are available, since some are not suitable for growing in small spaces. Cattle and pigs, for example, would likely be unsuitable for life in vertical farms. However, the quality of the food would likely be greater.
Is vertical farming the way farmers will grow food in the future? If it helps feed the world’s growing population, it could be part of the solution for helping people everywhere.
Climate.org. “Vertical Farming.” http://www.climate.org/climatelab/Vertical_Farming.
Parsons, Paul. “Vertical Farming Takes Agriculture to New Heights.” http://www.thenational.ae/business/energy/vertical-farming-takes-agriculture-to-new-heights
University of Lancaster. Exploiting vertical growing strategies for sustainable crop production.”
Vertical Farm.com. “The Vertical Farm.” http://www.verticalfarm.com/more.
Walsh, Bryan. “Vertical Farming.” http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1865974,00.html.