Guest blog post submitted by Northeast Cohort GreenCorps Member Cameron AxbergDriving around much of the Midwest, you are guaranteed to see miles upon miles of farmland in all directions. When asked to imagine a typical farm, this is what many people first think of, but in recent years, a new method of farming has been implemented into more urbanized areas. Vertical farming is exactly what it sounds like–vertical into the ceiling.
While there is some historical evidence to show that vertical farming was on the verge of becoming practice, it wasn’t until the last decade when new technologies allowed vertical farming to become a more practical possibility. The question still remains as to what benefits vertical farming provides. Compared to conventional farming, vertical farmings uses less water, provides a year-round growing cycle, reduces transportation cost, and lessens the impact on the environment.
Typical farming techniques are extremely resource intensive, specifically on water and soil use. With vertical farms, water use can be reduced by 70-95% because water is recycled. Excess water from the vertical growing systems is able to be collected and pumped back into the system to be used again. Soil use is also improved due to vertical farming being a closed system where herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers won’t be used in a typical growing cycle. From both of these reasons, there is a greatly reduced environmental impact on the acres and acres of farmland.
In the dead of winter, all of our fresh vegetables have to be shipped in from warmer climates, adding a greater cost to the consumer. With a year-round growing cycle, vegetables will always be a fresh local option. Vertical farming also uses artificial lighting, meaning vegetables don’t have to rely on the everyday energy requirements from the sun. It also means that in cloudy conditions, these plants will continue to thrive. Due to closed indoor environments of vertical farms, crops will have faster growing cycles and will not be susceptible to extreme weather leading to crop failure, which ultimately ends in a reduced cost to the everyday consumer and a more stable source of daily greens.
The leading criticism of vertical farming remains to be the energy required to power the LED sources for the farms, but with renewable sources of energy becoming cheaper and more efficient, there is a greater possibility that your vegetables are coming from a local vertical farm.