How Vertical Farming Works via ]Visual Capitalist
By 2050, there will be 3 billion more people in existence, and close to 80% of the world’s population will live in urban areas. The demand for food will be unprecedented, and we will need to figure out how to get food to the cities in the most effective way.
Enter vertical farming – the idea of building entire skyscrapers occupied with vertically-stacked farms that produce crops twice as fast, while using 40% less power, having 80% less food waste, and using 99% less water than outdoor fields.
Is it feasible, or is it a futuristic money pit?
The Advantages of Vertical Farming
There’s no question that vertical farming has enticing potential benefits.
The first is yield. Vertical farming can produce crops year-round, which increases production efficiency by a multiplier of 4 to 6 depending on the crop. There would also be less wastage and spoilage, as most of the crops could be sold fresh in a market or restaurant from the same facility. It’s estimated that 30% of harvested crops today are lost due to spoilage or infestation.
Secondly, vertical farming has less risk associated with it. Big weather events such as floods, droughts, or storms can put a dent into agricultural activity fast, costing farmers billions of dollars. Farming indoors can reduce the risk of these types of events to as low as possible.
Lastly, vertical farming is inherently more sustainable. By stacking farms vertically, the productivity per unit of land can be many times higher and arable land can be saved for other purposes. Further, there are no transportation costs to get the crops to market, and energy and water can be recycled within the building. Methane digesters can even help convert organic waste to energy to help power the building.
On paper, vertical farming seems to have big advantages.
Too Good to be True?
Critics of vertical farming question the potential profitability of commercial operations.
They says the capital expenditures, as well as the additional energy costs for lighting and heating, could outweigh any benefits. Building complex plumbing and elevator systems to distribute food and water throughout a 30-story building is not easy.
Meanwhile, for traditional farming operations, both sunlight and heat are free. Irrigation is generally cheap as well.
The benefits of vertically-stacked farms would have to outweigh the increased costs. With billions of new people being added to cities over the next decades, this could come be sooner than later.
Original graphic by: Futurism
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