Do you worry about how we will feed the world’s growing population? Are you concerned about the damage traditional agriculture is doing to the planet? How can we ensure food security in the future?
The developers of a new form of food production believe that ‘vertical farming’ is the panacea that will solve these global problems.
It’s estimated that by 2050, global food production will have to increase by 70 per cent in developed countries and 100 per cent in developing countries to feed the expected population growth.
That’s an alarming increase – especially considering that 38 percent of the earth’s land surface is already being farmed. How can we increase food production by such a huge degree without destroying even more of the earth’s natural habitats?
Vertical farming may be the answer.
What is vertical farming?
Vertical farms use hydroponic farming techniques to create layers of crops that are stacked vertically in towers located in urban areas.
One of the great advantages of vertical farming is that it provides the opportunity to increase food production on land that has already been developed – in our cities.
Vertically farmed crops are grown in a controlled environment – so all environmental factors, such as light, humidity, and temperature, can be controlled.
Because the crops are grown inside, pests are uncommon – meaning that herbicides and pesticides don’t have to be used.
Crops are grown in small amounts of nutrient-rich water and the water is often recycled.
It’s estimated that some vertical farms can grow in one acre, 130 acres worth of crops.
Yields can be as much as 200 per cent higher than for traditional farming techniques.
Mainly leafy greens and herbs are grown in vertical farms, but many types of foods can be cultivated.
New technologies mean that vertical farms can be programmed to suit a variety of different crops, and conditions – such as temperature and light – can be adapted so that plants grow at optimal rates.
The plants are usually packaged on site in special containers that cater for each crop’s characteristics, such as size and perspiration rates.
The down sides of vertical farming
Vertical farming consumes much more energy than any other form of food production.
Artificial lighting and climate control consume much more energy than traditional farming.
So while on the one hand vertical farming can help the world to produce more food to feed a growing population, we also need to reduce energy consumption on our planet to slow the rate of global warming.
Other gardening methods which don’t require artificial environments can also be used to produce food in urban settings, such a community gardens and greenhouses.
Given the vast areas of roof space in our cities, could we be making better use of these tracts?
What do you think? Would you like to see more vertical farms in our cities?