The challenges of growing enough food to feed the world have grown more severe in the 21st century. We need to feed more people with limited agricultural land and resources. We need to make better use of land, light and logistics for an increasingly urban population. And we need to incorporate zero-waste and low-energy technologies into the task of food production. What can achieve the intensification of food supply we require, but in a way that is also sustainable and less harmful to the environment?
There is an urgent need to develop new methods for sustainable food production. This includes a greater emphasis on urban agriculture such as vertical farming which, properly designed and planned, could provide the sustainable means to improve food supply we need. Ideally, urban agriculture fits neatly alongside or within existing buildings in a self-contained and sustainable manner without competing for resources. Such urban plots can be at ground level or on rooftops. They can use greenhouses in order to take advantage of the sun’s energy, or grow indoors with the help of artificial lights.
Vertical Farming is promising because it requires no soil, and can save space and energy – and improve crop yield. It takes advantage of the vertical space of city buildings rather than turning over wide expanses of land to agriculture and uses advanced greenhouse technology: hydroponics or aeroponics, and environmental controls that regulate temperature, humidity and light to produce vegetables, fruits and other crops year-round.
In large cities such as New York, Chicago, Tokyo and Singapore, these ideas are taking root. Singapore has taken local urban farming to a high level – Skygreens has built the world’s first commercial vertical farm in large three-storey greenhouses, providing a sustainable source of fresh vegetables.