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Epic Self Sustained: Vertical Farms Are Changing the Way We Grow Food


No soil? No problem. From Japan to Jackson, Wyoming, plucking fresh lettuce is as easy as looking up. Vertical farms have been sprouting around the world, growing crops in places where traditional agriculture would have been impossible.

Vertical farms are multiple stories, often have a hydroponic system and some contain artificial lights to mimic the sun.

These green hubs are attractive in a variety of ways since food can be produced with less water (since it just recirculates), creates less waste and takes up less space than traditional farming, ultimately leaving a smaller footprint on the environment.

Additionally, the United Nations projects that the world’s population will reach 9.6 billion people by 2050, 86 percent of whom will live in cities. For swelling cities, these urban farms give city dwellers greater access to fresh, nutritious food-year round, reducing the distance it has to travel to get to forks. Here are five more reaons why the sky’s the limit with vertical farms.

 

 

Vertical farms are a great response to climate change: Urban farming has been touted by many as a solution to increasingly extreme weather caused by warmer global temperatures. In very parched California, the Ouroboros Farms in Pescadero employs an unusual group of farmers: Catfish. The farm uses an “aquaponics” system, where 800 catfish swim and dine on organic feed, and as they create waste, the crops above suck up this nitrogen-rich fertilizer. All this means no soil, pesticides or other toxins are required for the stunning variety of vegetables that are produced at the farm, from spicy greens to root vegetables. In case you’re wondering, nothing goes to waste; these fish are also sold as food. The farm also saves 90 percent less water than traditional farming.

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Vertical farms adapt to disaster: We previously featured Japanese plant physiologist Shigeharu Shimamura, who converted an abandoned, semiconductor factory into the world’s biggest indoor farm, Mirai. Shimamura built the farm in 2011 in response to the food shortages caused by the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan, and sparked the Fukushima nuclear disaster which irradiated much of the region’s farmland.

At 25,000 square feet, the farm can yield up to 10,000 heads of lettuce a day. That’s 100 times more per square foot than traditional methods, and uses 99 percent less water usage than outdoor fields.

A press release said that the building is powered by special General Electric LEDs that “generate light in wavelengths adapted to plant growth. While reducing electric power consumption by 40 percent compared to fluorescent lighting, the facility has succeeded in increasing harvest yields by 50 percent,” and meant that Mirai was able to offset the cost of pricy LEDs. Watch how it all works:

It’s only the beginning for vertical farms in terms of technology. At the New Buffalo, Michigan, some plants grow under pink-tinted LED lights which “provide the correct blue and red wavelengths for photosynthesis.”  It’s so efficient, the farm can currently grow 10 tons of lettuce in only 500 square feet of space.
Vertical farms are being used beyond food. In fact, they’re being used to aid human health.

 


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Comments (2)

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