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What Progress Have We Made on Vertical Farming?

Vertical Farming Technology

Sometimes, concepts have very literal names, thus making it that much easier for interested individuals to figure out their exact meaning. For proof, look no further than vertical farming, which means growing food as well as other kinds of produce in a vertical rather than the much more traditional horizontal orientation. With that said, vertical farming can take on a wide range of forms, as shown by how various examples are making use of everything from vertical stacks to vertical surfaces and vertical structures with vertical farming.

What Are the Upsides of Vertical Farming in a Fast-Changing World?

Vertical farming is getting a lot of interest from a lot of people because it promises to become very useful for the foreseeable future. In short, one of the biggest problems facing the human race is that the planet is experiencing rising temperatures because of human pollution, which will have immense, not wholly predictable effects throughout the entire world. Food-wise, this promises to have catastrophic consequences because most forms of agriculture are reliant on predictable weather patterns for the best results, according to The Guardian. Furthermore, it should be mentioned that climate change is expected to increase the incidences of not just extreme droughts but also extreme precipitation, both of which are ruinous for agricultural efforts. After all, water is one of the fundamental inputs that plants need in order to grow, but not so much so that the plants are drowned in water plus the pollutants that storms can sweep in. On top of this, it should be mentioned that we are using up groundwater at an unsustainable pace, which is another serious problem without a simple and straightforward solution.

Unsurprisingly, this means that food production is a very important topic for people who are interested in making sure that the human race can continue to thrive in the times to come. Something that is particularly true because the total human population is expected to continue increasing for a few more decades before it will start to fall on its own through the same combination of factors that have proven to be so efficacious in this regard in the developed world. Naturally, vertical farming is one of the proposed solutions that have come up, though it remains to be seen to what extent it will be taken up. First, vertical farming lets interested parties use otherwise unusable space for farming. After all, traditional farming can't happen on empty air, whereas vertical farming can happen on structures replacing empty air. Second, vertical farming lets interested parties control the growing conditions for their vertical farms, thus enabling them to grow the plants of their desire at any time as well as any place. This isn't perfect, as shown by how a number of important staples such as wheat and rice are very uneconomical to grow with vertical farming. However, it is nonetheless much better than what is possible with traditional farming, particularly in regions that are expected to see significant disruptions to their weather patterns. Third, it should be mentioned that vertical farming can be carried out in the cities themselves. Something that promises to bring about massive reductions in transportation costs because most people live within cities, thus minimizing the distances between the producers and the growers with the future of farming. 

Combined, this means that if it is possible for our societies to switch over to vertical farming en masse, there could be some pretty significant benefits. Simply put, being able to grow any kind of food at any time in the cities could produce enormous savings in money as well as other resources, which won't be able to prevent climate change from happening but should at least be capable of helping it from becoming worse than it already promises to be.

How Far Have We Come in Regards to Vertical Farming?

Vertical farming is real. Moreover, there is a wide range of parties experimenting with a wide range of vertical farming setups. However, the single biggest obstacle to the widespread use of vertical farming is whether scaling up to such an extent is possible at all. For those who are curious, there are a number of huge obstacles standing in the way of the widespread adoption of vertical farming. One excellent example would be the start-up costs involved in setting up a vertical farm, which might be a one-time thing but nonetheless represent considerable sums for most of the people who are involved in such matters. However, another even bigger problem would be the energy costs involved in the process. Yes, vertical farming lets interested individuals grow food and other produce even when sunlight conditions are far from being perfect. However, the downside is that the energy for the lighting as well as other inputs have to come from somewhere, thus resulting in some serious costs in the grand scheme of things.

Currently, vertical farmers aren't going for anything as ambitious as replacing their traditional counterparts altogether. In fact, they aren't even going for a partial replacement so much as carving out a position for themselves in the food and other produce markets. However, it is clear that vertical farmers are keeping a watchful eye on the technologies that can be used to improve their operations, with an excellent example being how LED lights have been becoming more and more efficient within a very short period of time. As a result, it will be interesting to see how the ambitions of vertical farmers change as their efficiencies continue to improve.

Will We Continue to Make Progress in Regards to Vertical Farming?

So long as there is a demand for something, chances are good that people and other parties will step up to provide it. Due to this, it seems likely that vertical farming technologies will continue to see improvement for the foreseeable future, which will presumably encourage more and more people to take up the practice. There might come a time when we hit the technological ceiling when it comes to vertical farming, but we aren't even close to that particular point in the present time.

Liz Flynn

Written by Liz Flynn

Liz Flynn has worked as a full-time writer since 2010 after leaving a career in education. She finds almost all topics she writes about interesting, but her favorite subjects are travel and food. Liz loves the process of researching information, learning new things, and putting into words what others who share her interests might like to read. Although she spends most of her time writing, she also enjoys spending time with her husband and four children, watching films, cooking, dining out, reading, motorsports, gaming, and walking along the beach next to her house with her dog.

Read more posts by Liz Flynn

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