Today, the urban population significantly exceeds the rural one, where most agricultural products are still grown. In this regard, the problem of supplying fresh food to cities with minimal environmental damage arises. At the same time, traditional farming methods cannot guarantee consistently high performance: climate, weather, soil conditions strongly affect it. The result is periodically low yields, nitrogen deficiency in plants, loss of palatability. Vertical farming is one of the topical options for solving these problems.
What Is Vertical Farming?
In short, this farming method involves growing plants on top of each other in a unique environment. It should be closed and controlled to create optimal weather conditions if necessary. In addition to managing essential factors such as light and humidity, vertical farming allows for production all year round.
Another obvious advantage is the smaller area compared to traditional farming. It is true for cities and entire countries, for example, Saudi Arabia, where deserts occupy almost its entire territory. Today, vertical farming systems allow you to grow up to 500 tons of greenery per year. And they need 99 percent less land and light and 98 percent less water than traditional farming methods.
Urban Agriculture Options
Although it is rather challenging to imagine areas for food production in a modern metropolis, there is a reasonably wide range of urban agriculture options. We can use roofs as “fields” to place greenhouses, special allotments, and even walls. This way, it is possible to meet up to 30 percent of the needs of the urban population.
There are other advantages from the introduction of such technologies, here are just a few of them:
- reduction of food waste due to production in a controlled environment;
- organic food by reducing the need for herbicides and pesticides;
- increasing the efficiency of water use.
Note that the development of urban agriculture does not mean the disappearance of a traditional one. We still need significant acreage to produce staple crops such as grain.
The Origin of Urban Agriculture
Interestingly, the emergence of vertical farming is a natural continuation of urban agriculture development. The latter has existed since the beginning of the migration of people to cities. For example, back in the 19th century, Parisians were completely self-sufficient in food. However, due to population growth and more intensive development, solving the food problem has become more complex.
At the same time, the delivery of food from the countryside was not an ideal solution: they were not fresh and often of poor quality. For example, vegetables and fruits can lose much of their nutritional value after chlorine treatment, packaging, and long-term storage in warehouses. Moreover, transportation over long distances increases the cost of agricultural products and causes significant harm to the environment. As a result of these problems, people began to look for ways to optimize urban agriculture.
The Technology Behind It
One of the features of vertical farming is digital control, which allows you to manage the entire process thanks to advanced technologies. With the help of special sensors, it is possible to collect data on sowing and germination throughout the location and measure humidity, carbon dioxide, and temperature. Also, the management of vertical farming using computer technology allows you to employ fewer than a usual number of people at the maximum load of a farm.
Why Cities Must Feed Their People?
This question is quite natural when the tradition of food production in rural areas has developed for centuries. However, in recent decades, the need for the development of urban agriculture has increased, and there are several reasons for it.
- Over the past 30 years, the number of people who do not depend on agriculture has doubled. Now it is more than 4 billion people. In terms of growth rates, it exceeded the rural population by five times.
- The amount of land suitable for agriculture is decreasing, and climate change aggravates the situation.
- Agriculture and animal husbandry are significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions into the environment. With governments and civil society organizations grappling with these environmental challenges, subsidizing this industry is becoming increasingly irrational.
These reasons determine the practicality of urban agriculture development and its importance as environmental protection.
Thus, vertical farming is a progressive way of solving several accumulated problems in the agricultural sector. First, it allows cities to supply sufficient fresh produce to meet the needs of the local population. Secondly, vertical farming significantly reduces environmental damage and optimizes the consumption of material and human resources. Thirdly, advanced technologies allow you to stabilize the amount of the obtained crop and improve the product quality.
At the same time, at the moment, vertical farming is unable to completely replace traditional agriculture, especially in the cultivation of plants that need large land areas. Therefore, it is not a threat to agricultural production.