The world is a much smaller place than it used to be. That’s not just a colloquialism,
but also a fact when you consider the fact that there are more people currently living on Earth than ever before in its history.
Not only does this population boom mean that the planet has gotten a little crowded, it also means that sustaining so many humans is becoming increasingly difficult. Faced with the issue of feeding billions, modern man has found that the only way out is up.
Moving On Up
A large part of the issue of feeding everyone on Earth comes down to real estate. There’s simply not enough square footage on the surface of the planet to allow for sufficient farmland. There is, however, plenty of unutilized airspace that can do the same job with less effort. Vertical farming is a system of growing crops indoors, in vertical shelf-like structures, under careful watch.
This system eliminates seasonal constraints, outdoor pests like weeds and insects, and allows for a highly precise growing environment, resulting in the best possible yields and quality of crops.
Vertical farming could, perhaps, be traced all the way back to the first human cultivation of plants, but that may be a bit of a stretch. Instead, a more realistic origin story began in the 20th century when greenhouses were first established. This system of indoor growth paved the way for other farming innovations, like hydroponics.
These systems showed scientists that although man has been attempting to make plants fit into their environment for centuries, a much better system of agriculture changes the environment to accommodate the plants instead.
With the global population expected to climb to 9 billion within the next 30 years, the field of agriculture is scrambling for efficient and sustainable ways to feed that many people while taking up as little space as possible. Luckily, vertical farming is here to fill the need.
Down to The Numbers
Vertical farming makes sense in theory, but how much space does it actually save? Quite a lot, as it turns out. One acre of vertically farmed land can produce the same crop yield as up to 20 acres of conventionally farmed land. That kind of math speaks for itself, but when combined with the fact that crops would no longer be victim to the elements, it’s not hard to see why vertical farming is being so vigorously adopted.
The different forms of vertical farming mean that it can be achieved with hardly any soil, and in some cases, even with very little water. Essentially, vertical farming is a viable option anywhere in the world, so urban environments may soon not need to have their fresh produce shipped in from rural areas. Instead, modular farms and even skyscrapers may prove the farmland of the future.
Vertical farming’s success as an industry depends largely on finding energy efficient ways to operate the farms. Since the natural environment takes care of things like light in conventional farms, this is an added expense of indoor farming.
Though there are certainly kinks to work out, vertical farming is almost certainly an important part of humans’ future. As the population increases, man must find smarter ways to get sustenance, and vertical farming is one of them.