What Is Vertical Farming?
Producing food vertically on inclined surfaces is what is known as Vertical Farming. This is an alternative to farming vegetables and other foods on a single level, like on agricultural land, which needs to be wide and large taking up more surface area, or a greenhouse such as a polytunnel. Vertical farming is producing food in vertical layers, often using structures such as shipping containers or repurposed warehouses or unused underground spaces, especially in urban areas like in London.
Technology is developed and used to monitor the agriculture environment, by artificially controlling the temperature, light, humidity, and gases. This technology makes possible the use of very small areas of land or surfaces in any places even underground spaces or unused bridges or even shipping containers which are recycled in vertical farming.
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How this all Works.
To understand how it works these elements are important : physical layout, lighting, growing medium and Sustainability features.
Vertical farming is about producing more foods per square meter by stacking crops in layers in a tower structure and monitoring natural light and artificial light. Rotating beds to improve light efficiency is one of the technologies used.
No soil is used at all which avoid dealing with bugs and worms, instead aeroponic, aquaponic or hydroponic growing methods are used using 95% less water.
Aeroponic : a plant-cultivation technique in which the roots hang suspended in the air while nutrient solution is delivered to them in the form of a fine mist.
Aquaponic : a system of aquaculture in which the waste produced by farmed fish or other aquatic creatures supplies the nutrients for plants grown hydroponically, which in turn purify the water.
(thanks to its automatic recirculating system, aquaponics does not require much monitoring or measuring).
Hydroponic : the process of growing plants in sand, gravel, or liquid.
Is Vertical Farming the future everywhere?
Is it that in the future we will rely on vertical farming to preserve the Earth from extensive farming, deforestation to make room for growing crops, like in the Amazon, or other places where farming has ruined the soil. Vertical farming could be the solution for feeding the urban population. Is it sustainable? Is the dependency on artificial light a burden to the planet?
It is clear that Vertical farming offers some advantages such as helping to meet future food demand and providing the possibility to grow food around the year even in inhospitable environments such as Alaska or other places hit by natural catastrophes or the impact of climate change.
Vertical farming uses significantly less water, the weather does not affect the crop, more organic crops will be produced, it reduces exposure to chemicals and diseases because it does not use soil.
By using renewable energy such as solar Vertical farming can be completely sustainable and great for the planet.
But Vertical farming has its challenges. It does not allow for natural and free pollination by bees and it relies too much on technology and electricity which is exposed to the risk of power cuts.
Vertical Farming in London.
Vertical farming in London is succeeding in reducing reliance on imported food and the associated carbon footprint of transport and congestion, and provides more readily available fresh food. Imagine if every restaurant has the possibility to grow their own food in their basement ?
Michel Roux Junior is sponsoring an underground farm in London since 2015.
Sustainability is a key consideration, with a focus on renewable energy technology. Solar panels and LED lighting reduce electricity usage from the Grid. Water consumption is reduced through hydroponic and aeroponic methods, by water recycling and by using rain water. Fertilisers and pesticides used in traditional agriculture are not required.
Over 83% of the UK population lives in an urban area. Vertical Farms in brownfield sites provide opportunities for urban redevelopment and a readily available source of fresh produce for the local community.
Urban farming developments also help to alleviate some of the pressures faced by the rural agricultural sector – lack of available land, soil erosion and pollution caused by fertilisers and pesticides and workforce shortages resulting in failed harvests and lost crops.
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