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Is Vertical Farming The Future Of Agriculture?

Updated: Jul 11, 2021

Increasing food demand due to a growing populations and decreasing farmable lands and soil health is becoming one of the greatest challenges facing us. Vertical farming along with other ways of growing food without soil via hydroponics or hydroponic farming and indoor hydroponics, which can all be the answer to this challenge.

Vertical Farming Pod, Growing in foam. Urban green Farms
Vertical Farming Pod, Growing in foam.

So What is Vertical Farming?

Vertical farming is the practice of growing crops using soilless farming techniques such as hydroponics, aquaponics, and aeroponics in vertically stacked layers. It often incorporates controlled-environment agriculture, which aims to optimise plant growth with nutrients, lighting and pH.

How Vertical Farming Works

There are four critical areas in understanding how vertical farming works. These are based on the principals of Hydroponic Farming practices and use much the same systems in order to grow food. If this was done on a large scale or even in your back yard the same 4 key areas makes for a good vertical garden.

1. Physical layout - this is the system itself or how you will grow the crops. This could be done using a ready made system or building something on a larger farm scale. This would include the plumbing for nutrient water flow and how the plants are potted for growth.

2. Lighting - All plants need lighting for photosynthesis and to convert energy. There are many different options available, however LEDs are traditionally the best form of lighting. For smaller systems the sun itself or solar powered lights can be used too.

3. Growing medium - The easiest way to encourage rapid root growth is by selecting a growing media that allows your plants to absorb as manny nutrients as possible (usually known as soil when referring to conventional grow methods), in this case hydroponics or vertical farming generally uses Coco coir, Perlite, Clay Balls or NFT (Nutrient Film Technique).

4. Sustainability features - How can we ensure the farming practise is sustainable to save water, energy and waste? Things like solar power, a reduction in chemical use and the benefit of a reduction in food miles.

Advantages of Vertical Farming

Having greater output from a small cultivation area is not the only advantage of vertical farming. Here are some of the major benefits of vertical farming:

Environment: By 2050, around 68% of the world population is expected to live in urban areas, and the growing population will lead to an increased demand for food. Vertical farming can help with reducing food miles, chemicals, no soil erosion, and you can grow food in places and spaces were farms don't exist.

Increased And Year-Round Crop Production: Vertical farming allows us to produce more crops from the same growing area. 1 acre of an indoor area offers equivalent production to at least 4-6 acres of outdoor capacity. Additionally, year-round crop production is possible in a controlled indoor environment which is completely controlled by vertical farming technologies.

Less Use Of Water In Cultivation: Vertical farming allows us to produce crops with 70% to 95% less water than required for normal crop yields, and less water waste.

Not Affected By Weather Conditions: Crops in a field can be affected by natural disasters such as torrential rains, cyclones, flooding or severe droughts—events which are becoming increasingly common as a result of global warming. Indoor vertical farms are less likely to feel the weather, providing greater certainty of harvest output throughout the year.

Increased Production of Organic Crops: As crops are produced in a well-controlled indoor environment without the use of chemical pesticides, vertical farming allows us to grow pesticide-free and organic crops. Yay for us!

Human and Environmentally Friendly: Indoor vertical farming can significantly lessen the occupational hazards associated with traditional farming. Farmers are not exposed to hazards related to heavy farming equipment, diseases or poisonous chemicals.

When we use new technologies, education and adopt new practices for growing food we can see an abundance of possibilities for the agriculture industry and take some of the pressure off our precious Aussie land!

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