Vertical Farms Sprouting Up All Over The World Could Bring Food Local


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skygreens_vertical_farmImagine walking into a high rise building only to find out it was actually a vertical farm. As odd as this sounds, this type of building is popping up in different areas of the world as the idea promises new, environmentally friendly and rapid ways to feed growing populations.

The first commercial vertical farm was built in Singapore by Jack Ng who is an entrepreneur looking to supply food to Singapore’s densely populated city without having to buy a lot of highly priced land around the city. His vertical farm method is energy efficient, simple and mixes some ancient practices with new ones. The tower is modern and clear, so it looks great and allows sunlight into the the building for the plants. The produce grown in the building is sold under the name SkyGreens. You can find out more about how this vertical farm works in the video below.

In March of this year the largest vertical farm is set to open up in Scranton, New York. The farm was built by Green Spirit Farms and only utilizes about 3.25 hectares of land (about 8 acres.) Considering the average farm is about 300 acres, using only a fraction of the land to provide food to locals indicates the efficiency of the farming method. This farm will use plant racks that utilize soil-free hydroponics systems and will be lit by LEDs that mimic sunlight. The entire system of rotation can be monitored and adjusted by software using something even as simple as a smartphone. This new farm is set to grow 14 lettuce crops each year, spinach, kale, tomatoes, peppers, basil and strawberries. The projected output is said to be about 10 times greater than the first vertical farm Green Spirit Farms built in 2011.

Although sunlight is used as much as possible in vertical farms, some are using windowless operations and some with lights like LEDs that re-create sunlight. This might make us question whether or not the plants will be getting the right type of light to grow properly. Since nutrients mainly come from soil or hydroponics systems, the only question is whether or not using artificial light instead of sunlight provides an equal product. Current research suggests that grow lights can provide plants with light spectrums they need and are useful to harden seedlings if the weather is still harsh. But, researchers seem to agree that growing plants with real sunlight is much better than using artificial light.

This idea certainly can have useful implications, but personally I feel that each farm should use as much sunlight much like the Singapore design did. Innovation is always a positive step but naturally I feel some things are meant to contain as many natural elements as possible.

Considering much of the worlds food is flown or driven around a great deal before it reaches its destination, these vertical farming practices can provide food to people locally. This is important because as food is picked from the ground, plant or tree, it begins to lose its nutrients over time. The faster food gets to your dinner plate, the more nutritious it is. Not only that, but certain produce items are picked when they aren’t quite ripe so that they can be ripe when they get to their destination. By nature, this also means the food isn’t as nutritious.

Growing locally is certainly the most ideal way to feed the world. While not all climates can grow every type of produce, we also need to remember that we can get more in tune with eating fruits and vegetables that are in season versus relying on eating from other places around the world. Vertical farms might be one possible solution that can help extend the range of foods that can be grown in certain areas, as well as create unlimited growing seasons for certain foods.

What are your thoughts on vertical farms? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Sources:

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22129524.100-vertical-farms-sprouting-all-over-the-world.html#.Utq0_2Qo7w4

http://www.journeyman.tv/?lid=65841

http://store.earthled.com/collections/earthled-growled-series-led-grow-lights#.Utrn9WQo7w4

http://www.lighting.philips.com/main/application_areas/horticultural/case_studies/case_study_vitro_plus_nederland.wpd

http://earthsky.org/human-world/artificial-light-plant-growth


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  5. Lisa Mac

    This is a great idea, but we have to farm organically and sustainably without high input. We have been growing in a commercial aquaponics setup for 2 years now and have recouped our initial investment in under a year using the principles from the guys at Friendly aquaponics. We live in Australia where we have plenty of land but very little water. These systems save 95% water use and are therefore a solution for drought stricken areas as well.

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  7. Lady of this world
  8. Lila hw

    Just an fyi…. The vertical farm being built in Scranton, is in Pennsylvania…. Not New York….

  9. I really like these ideas and think we have to start doing more stuff like this all over!

    But I dont believe in hydroponics because I think its not possible to grow organic crops with this type of growing?
    Growing organic is the most important part of it all, because chemical based nutrient solutions etc are really not healthy for us at all. Not to mention the earth, soil and animals around us in general. Organic is always the safest way with no side effects of any nasty chemicals. I know hydroponics is very efficient and easy to use when its set up. But I dont think that overcomes the positve sides of growing organic when it comes to the nutritional value of the plants and of course the health benefits of it all.

    Organic growing can also be very easy by making a “super soil”, mixing a lot of high quality nutrients together in high quality soil; and let it “cook/grow” for a month or so. (Bone meal, blood meal, epsom salts, limestone, rockdust, worm poop, etc.) Use this super soil in the bottom of the pots with normal organic soil in the top half of the pot. The roots will grow down towards the nutrients and take exactly what it needs when it needs it. Not burning the plants with to much nutrients. Of course different crops have different needs when it comes to nutrients, but that is fairly easy to adjust.

    Anyways this is a good idea that can be build on!

    • Oh yeah, forget to say you can just water the plants through out its whole life when growing with “super soil”. Making it very easy!

  10. My concern with this type of growing is quality – think hot house tomatoes. You can gets lots of green growth, but that doesn’t assure quality. Healthy soil with happy soil microbes and the full range of minerals are essential for truly healthy highly nutritious plants. How do you get that with hydroponics? And how sustainable is the system, with all that technology, nutrient solutions, etc. I would certainly go with as much sunshine as possible, though some things happily grow in quite shady areas. Greenhouses on flat roofs in the city might make more sense.

    • all nutrients go in as a solution. Hydrophonics has it ready made (solution), mo need for micro live. Structural support for the roots by inert material on which disease can not settle. Aerate the water, roots need oxygen as well, as do the fish.

      Sustainable depends on how you source your inputs: preferable from the same source that uses, eats the products. Not with fossil fuel created artificial fertilizers, and with fossil fuel driven energy systems.

  11. Jan

    We went to Colorado across Kansas this past summer…I was amazed at the “empty” land…land that wasn’t growing SOMETHING!! There were wind farms, and kudos for that, but couldn’t there be a crop of some sort growing under those HUGE turbines?? I think the growing vertical farms are wonderful as getting the produce to local people quicker…but the lands in this country are not being used effectively, and I find that a shameful waste…

    • LadyDiane

      How do you grow anything on the actual land in America without worrying about crossing your crops (due to wind and bees) with GMO crops and having Monsanto and Searle suing you back to zero for “using their patented technology”? I think I see the answer in this article. Necessity truly IS the mother of invention-ness. Let’s have more of vertical farming. Let’s keep open land open instead of stripping it of nutrients in the name of money. Grassland feeds so much of the planet’s animals either directly or indirectly and the nutrients return to the land.

      • adina pages

        Yes you are right, i think the same.

    • Lady of this world

      Remember that a large part of the US has been facing drought and that without water, you can’t grow much. This could be compensated by replanting trees as they’ve done in semi-desertic areas in India…

  12. This sounds absolutely great, also as a great way to keep jobs local and reinforce one’s local economy.

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  14. It’s good to have easy alternatives that you can use indoors or in small spaces as well to grow your own organic healthy (pesticide and gmo free food). Yeah, your own real food! Build up instead of out! http://arthritisrelieved.com/aquaculture-system-for-sustainable-gardening/

  15. Siegfried Gust

    This is really only a solution for high cost per calorie vegetables. Fact of the matter is that agriculture is the conversion of light into digestible calories. And sunlight is by far the cheapest and most suitable light for plants. The plants that produce our food staples like grains and tubers tend to need full sun all day long to produce decent crops. That rules out anything like these towers. And it would be completely unsustainable to try and produce them in significant quantities with artificial light sources.

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