Farming in urban environments was previously thought to be impossible. However, thanks to new innovative farming methods, urban agriculture is quickly becoming viable. Techniques like vertical farming make urban agriculture an option for those who wish to expand into the world of farming within cities.
But what is vertical farming, exactly?
Vertical farming is “the practice of producing food in vertically stacked layers, inclined surfaces or integrated into other structures such as a skyscraper, used warehouse, or shipping container”. The benefit of using vertical farms is the ability to control the climate, from humidity to temperature. The majority of vertical farms use hydroponic or aeroponic systems, two techniques that do not require soil for plants to grow.
In cities, the land is often expensive, and one of the counterpoints of innovative farming in cities is cost. According to Katif, “land is the largest capital expenditure in any greenhouse operation”. Therefore, to make innovative farming techniques profitable, it is essential to minimize the amount of land needed for a farm. This is when vertical farms come in.
Vertical farms are particularly well-suited for urban environments, as they require very little space to produce a variety of products. They can make use of abandoned buildings and act as a way to beautify parts of cities suffering from urban decay while supporting the community with accessible, healthy food choices.
As the climate inside the greenhouse or other building can be controlled, vertical farms have the added benefit of growing all year round, without worrying about frost, drought, or extreme temperatures. Successful yields year after year would offset the initial cost of starting a vertical farm within a city and make food more affordable for many people.
Additionally, one acre of a vertical farm is the equivalent to 4-6 acres of traditional horizontal farmland. But, depending on the crop, it could be more. For instance, an acre of strawberries in a vertical farm could produce as much as 30 acres-worth of crops, proving that this method is an effective use of limited space.
As the population of cities continues to grow, vertical farms will allow these areas to sustain the community and to provide healthy food. By creating numerous sustainable environments within cities “that encourage good health…new employment opportunities, fewer abandoned lots and buildings, cleaner air, safe use of municipal liquid waste, and an abundant supply of drinking water” vertical farms will help improve the quality of life for numerous people living in cities.
Besides the benefit of saving money on the part of the producer and consumer and making access to fresh food easier for city dwellers, the other significant impact of vertical farming is allowing the environment to repair many ecosystems. As the switch from traditional agriculture to vertical farming gradually occurs, forest regrowth, soil recovery, and other aspects may lead to a reversal in climate change.