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Vertical farming is revolutionizing the way we grow food. Learn about the innovative approach of vertical farming and its benefits for the environment & food system.

Vertical Farming: The Future of Urban Agriculture?

The production and consumption of food has a significant impact on the environment, especially if we keep holding on to conventional farming methods established far from city centers.

Agriculture has been linked to being a major contributor to climate change, deforestation, and soil degradation. According to the UN, the world population is expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050.

As the world's population grows, so does the demand for food. With half of the world's habitable land already being used for agriculture, we will probably soon reach our resource limits.

Sustainability starts on our plate. In an urbanizing world we can minimize our foodprint through strategies like plant-based diets, local and seasonal food choices, waste reduction, and supporting more sustainable farming practices. In response to these challenges, vertical farming has emerged to revolutionize the way we grow food.

Discover how vertical farming is transforming urban agriculture as we know it - from maximizing crop yields to providing food solutions for future generations.

What is Vertical Farming?

Let's dive right into the main facts you need to know:

As the name already suggests, vertical farming is a method of growing food upwards using vertical stacked layers, rather than in vast horizontal rows as in fields or beds. A huge benefit of growing crops vertically is space. Vertical farms can drastically increase their yield and therefore produce significantly more food while using the same amount of land.

Is growing plants on top of each other all we had to come up with? Well, it's not quite as simple as that.

When reading about vertical farming, you may often stumble across the term "CEA", short for Controlled Environment Agriculture Technology. As vertical farms are mainly located indoors, technology can create optimal growing conditions for the plants. However, maintaining the delicate ecosystem within the growing process is key. Same as losing an entire crop due to poor weather conditions in the field, it can happen indoors from a slight imbalance of the equation.

Using CEA technology successfully, allows producing food all year round. Not being dependent on climate conditions or access to farmland makes vertical farming a promising solution for urban areas.  Another reason why vertical farming is so interesting for cities, is that it can basically be practiced anywhere inside or even outside.

Vertical Farm installed in Lisbon, Portugal

Vertical Farming can be performed in:

  • abandoned or unused buildings
  • warehouses
  • shipping containers
  • rooftops
  • greenhouses
  • skyscrapers and other tall building structures

Meaning in the heart of a pulsating city!

Vertical farms most typically produce leafy greens, herbs, and microgreens. A number of vertical farms, however, also grow fruits such as melons, flowers, grains such as rice, and other vegetables such as eggplants, cucumbers, etc.

How Does Vertical Farming Work? The Technology Behind It

Vertical farming is an innovative approach to agriculture that involves growing crops in vertically stacked layers, utilizing controlled environment agriculture (CEA) technology. Advanced tools such as data science, software and robotics enable precise monitoring and adjustment of growing conditions like temperature, humidity, water, and light. To save energy, there are vertical farms that are designed to allow plants to have access to natural sunlight as their main source of light (like our Raiz farm).

To provide essential nutrients to the plants, hydroponic, aeroponic, or aquaponic systems are employed. They are all soil-less or substrate-based systems, used for irrigation and fertilization in modern agriculture. At Raiz, we are currently developing a modular system that combines hydroponic techniques with the use of solar energy.

Hydroponic Systems

In hydroponic systems, plants are planted and grown in a nutrient-rich solution without the need for soil. This method is becoming increasingly popular, especially in urban areas where land is limited and soil quality can be poor. With its availability to save and recycle water, using less fertilizer while producing more food all year long, hydroponic systems can significantly reduce the environmental impact of its produce.

Inside of the hydroponic systems in our farm

Aeroponic Systems

Aeroponic systems use a misting mechanism to provide water and nutrients to the roots of the plants. The Aeroponic technique also uses less fertilizer than traditional agriculture and is in comparison the most economical in terms of water usage.

Aquaponic Systems

Aquaponics is a combination of aquaculture (raising fish) and hydroponics, in which the waste produced by the fish provides nutrients for the plants. The symbiotic relationship between fish and plants is a clever circulation system. While the crops benefit from the fish waste, the plants naturally clean the water.

These systems are designed to produce food more efficiently while using fewer space and resources. Automation is the key to this efficiency, which leads to higher output and better quality food.

Advantages of Vertical Farming: Why Sustainability Matters

Vertical farming has several advantages over traditional farming methods. The innovative farming technique is mainly attracting attention due to its remarkable efficiency and high yield (capitalism lol). However, efficiency and sustainability go hand in hand. Using fewer resources benefits our planet and future generations. By utilizing modern technologies, vertical farms can reduce water usage by up to 70% and eliminate the need for pesticides and herbicides, resulting in healthier food and a more sustainable agricultural system.

The most important benefits of vertical farming at a glance:

Efficient use of space: Vertical farms can be built almost anywhere, resulting in the preservation of valuable arable land and reduced land use.

  • Smaller land footprint
  • Reduced impact on biodiversity
  • Reduced water consumption
  • Reduced energy consumption: Especially by using renewable energy sources
  • Higher crop productivity: Vertical farms are capable of producing more crops per square meter than traditional farms
  • Year-round production: Vertical farms are not affected by seasonal changes
  • Shorter supply chains: Fewer food miles and reduced transportation costs
  • Waste Reduction: Shorter transportation to the consumer, as well as different packaging and composting cycles significantly reduce waste
  • Pesticide-free: Creating healthier produce and a safer work environment for farmers
  • Controlled environment agriculture (CEA): helping food security by making production more resilient to environmental impacts
  • Bringing fresh produce to urban areas: Avoiding food deserts
  • Contributing to build decentralized food systems: Food is grown, processed, and distributed by local businesses, rather than large corporations.

⁠This all can equal an overall reduction of the carbon footprint of food production

Through the use of modern technologies and innovative farming techniques, vertical farming is able to play an important role in feeding the world's growing population while protecting our planet for future generations.

Vertical Farming: The Solution For All Our Problems?

Not quite yet. While vertical farming has the potential to tackle global environmental issues, there are still some limitations and challenges that need to be addressed.

Challenges in vertical farming

High investment cost of establishing a vertical farm

Equipment, skilled labor and urban real estate are expensive and create barriers for small farmers to enter the market. Additionally, energy costs can be high due to the need for artificial lighting and climate control systems. Even though vertical farms have a great variety of fresh produce, there are some crops which just don’t grow well. Grains, larger fruit trees and root vegetables with deep root systems require large amounts of soil, making them more suitable for traditional farming methods.

Vertical farming is still a relatively new technology

Some people are attached to the romantic perception of traditional farming and view modern agriculture with skepticism or even fear. To ensure consistent quality, rules and regulations will need to be put in place. In this respect, governments, private investors, and organizations like the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) are increasingly recognizing the potential of vertical farming and investing in its research and development.

Conclusions of the article Vertical Farming: The Future of Urban Agriculture?

Despite these challenges, the potential benefits of vertical farming are compelling. With a projected 6.7 billion people living in urban areas by 2050, the demand for food will increase in areas where land is scarce. Vertical farming has the potential to revolutionize the way we grow and distribute food, especially in densely populated areas.

At Raiz, we transform underused urban spaces into vibrant vertical farms, bringing food production closer to cities.

It seems certain that vertical farms will become more common in the future. Traditional and indoor farmers need to work side by side to establish a resilient and sustainable food system. There is still a long way to go!

The rise of vertical farms is a reminder that we are not limited by our current circumstances. As technology continues to advance, what other transformative changes will we see in the coming years as we seek to build a more sustainable future?

Written by: Viktoria Waldvogel

"Viktoria Waldvogel is an eco-enthusiastic writer with a background in Environmental Sciences, Geography and Economics. With a passion for food and urban agriculture, she dreams of a future with sustainably guilt-free avocados and believes that hope is the seed of change."