Vertical farm

Farmers have been planting rows of crops for thousands of years, but the future of farming may be a bit less spread out as a recent article in the Wall Street Journal reports on the ever-increasing vertical farming movement.

Green buildings—literally—those covered with oxygen-producing plants and growing edible foods inside may seem like super sci-fi futuristic civilization stuff; and although vertical farming is not yet a necessity, it may soon be a reality with expanding urban populations and shrinking natural environments. More people now live in cities than in rural settings—and it makes sense to adapt our farming techniques accordingly.

Urban farming is already a popular trend in many major cities where rooftop gardens and beekeeping can be found along chicken coops and potted vegetable gardens thriving in cities like Brooklyn. To many experts in urban farming, vertical farming is the logical next step—modeling our food supply to how many of us live already—layered in tall buildings that scrape the sky.

Growing food in an urban setting such as a repurposed warehouse, can reduce the transportation time and costs added to food brought into cities. It could also decrease our nation’s dependence on chemicals that have become necessary in conventional outdoor farming, too, according to the article, “Farming indoors could reduce the use of pesticides and herbicides, which pollute the environment in agricultural runoff. Preserving or reclaiming more natural ecosystems like forests could help slow climate change.”

Vertical farming endeavors are not without their challenges, though. Food production is considerably less effective in current vertical farms, despite advantages like being able to farm without soil and recycle waste from, say, farmed fish tanks. And the WSJ reports that the largest vertical farming project in the world, currently underway in Linköping, Sweden, is working to resolve many of these issues with a 12-story triangular vertical farm. The company will generate revenue not just from food sales, but also through renting out office space on most floors.

The article also points to critics of the movement, citing problems such as excessive use of electricity, artificial light, and special equipment needs to grow the foods. And the current lack of any government subsidies that many conventional farmers rely upon in order to produce low-cost foods may also hinder the efficacy of vertical farming. But for those vertical farmers already invested, they’re only looking in one direction: up.

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Image: vertical farming