Agriculture Made Sustainable, Episode 3: Vertical Farming

“Agriculture Made Sustainable” is a Food Circle project designed to create an awareness-raising process about sustainable agriculture, especially organic farming. It discusses the barriers, problems, challenges, advantages, and disadvantages of sustainable development in organic agriculture. Since various sectors such as plant nutrition, pest control, plant protection, soil, seeds, agricultural tools, and machinery are parts of the process, awareness can promote and develop sustainable agriculture to reduce the adverse effects of climate change global warming.



“We live vertically, so why can’t we farm vertically?" [Peter Platt]

What are we talking about?


Increasing the human population on earth and satisfying the needs of societies has become a significant challenge in recent decades due to the production of necessities of life. Sectors such as the textile and clothing industry, the non-sustainable packaging industry such as plastics and its derivatives, the agricultural sector, etc., have been criticized for having the highest pollution and carbon emissions levels. On the other hand, broader activities in these sectors have led to an increase in the effects of climate change. Regardless of some resource loss, including in the food and energy industry, the need to reduce carbon on the planet and replace fossil fuels has been considered an effective solution.


"Many aspects press on the food industry and processing, such as the growth of population and its growing needs accordingly, reduction of natural sources due to growing cities, earth erosion, different forms of contamination, the advent of biofuels, restrictions imposed on food production techniques affected by customers and rule providers which requires better quality, less use of chemicals and many helpful environmental attempts from farm to fork. (Fatemeh Kalantari, 2017)" [2]


Most Highly Efficient, Less Carbon


The methods through which farmers can have the highest production in a small area have been considered by experts. The process has been done with the participation of several sectors, such as hybrid seeds production with high production capacity, production of biopesticides, pests physical control tools, biological control, organic fertilizers, and so on.


“VF is a multilayer indoor plant production system in which all growth factors, such as light, temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide concentration (CO2), water, and nutrients, are precisely controlled to produce high quantities of high-quality fresh produce year-round, completely independent of solar light and other outdoor conditions. This control can be fully automated by using sensors and imaging techniques combined with crop simulation models and artificial intelligence. (Malleshaiah SharathKumar et al., 2020)” [1]


On the other hand, in recent decades, farmers in different parts of the world have harvested primary agricultural products in small areas with the highest yields using greenhouse cultivation methods. Subsequently, the change of texture from greenhouse crops to hydroponic crops created a newer approach to the production of products. Through this process, products with a high value in the food market are distributed via this procedure.


Urban Agriculture


"Vertical farming is on its way to becoming an addition to conventional agricultural practices, improving sustainable food production for the growing world population under increasing climate stress. While the early development of vertical farming systems mainly focused on technological advancement through design innovation, the automation of hydroponic cultivation, and advanced LED lighting systems, more recent studies focus on the resilience and circularity of vertical farming. (Thijs Van Gerrewey, Nico Boon and Danny Geelen, 2021)" [3] The transformations of greenhouse crops and hydroponic agriculture have led to more extensive research by researchers. Still, we need more creative designs to strengthen sustainable agriculture pillars. Fossil fuel is still one of these methods. However, operating innovative methods have been tried to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels in production and expand these methods in areas with high populations, such as metropolises.


Vertical farming has been implemented as a creative method by many companies and startups in recent years. By operating control of energy consumption and carbon reduction and the use of integrated approaches of hydroponics and intelligent production techniques, urban agriculture goals were made available. The primary purpose of these advanced greenhouses is to produce the essential food for the residents according to the priority of usage and sustainable meals. The vital elements provide to plant growth artificially. Furthermore, these methods can apply in all parts of the world, even in areas where soil and land are scarce because there is no connection between the ground and plants.


"Vertical farming methods bring additional considerations for the effective management of pests and diseases compared with conventional protected horticulture, such as the movement of both pests and beneficial insects between growth levels. (Joe M. Roberts et al., 2020)" [4]

Vertical Farming and Sustainable Development


The stunning development of plant biotechnology has led vertical farming to undergo a new phase in food development and production in recent years. Seed production with maximum capability and quality has enabled urban agriculture to harvest maximum agricultural products from advanced greenhouses in minimum space using various greenhouse designs.


Simulations in vertical greenhouses, which are inspired by natural elements and are done through the artificial design of cultivation conditions for plants, are considered one of the most excellent agricultural designs in recent years. On the other hand, one of the constant challenges of the farming sector, namely the supply chain (from production to supply) in the market, has been eliminated by implementing these methods. We will no longer face the transportation of food from the countryside to the cities, which can reduce fossil fuel consumption and help reduce the harmful effects of climate change.


Images Source: (Michele Butturini, Leo F.M. Marcelis, 2020) [5]


In Conclusion:


Vast differences in the implementation of cultivation methods, innovative creations in adapting natural cultivation conditions in greenhouses, development of biotechnology knowledge and hybrid seed production, elimination of transport risk, and reduction of carbon and fossil fuel consumption are our tools in this approach. Vertical farming has taken food production to a new position. Many countries, which could not farm due to the arid climate and desert location, produce agricultural products they need through this type of farming. With the continuation of this growing trend, we can hope that agriculture and urbanization will have an effective integration in the future.



Author: Majid Zamanshoar


 

Vertical Farming Scholarly Articles:


The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st Century https://g.co/kgs/DXuGRM


More Information:


  • Beacham, A.M., Vickers, L.H. and Monaghan, J.M., Vertical farming: a summary of approaches to growing skywards, [online] Available at: https://hau.repository.guildhe.ac.uk/id/eprint/17383/1/Andrew%20Beacham%20vertical%20farming%20upload.pdf

  • Dionysios Touliatos, Ian C. Dodd & Martin McAinsh, Vertical farming increases lettuce yield per unit area compared to conventional horizontal hydroponics, [online] Available at: https://scholar.google.com/scholar?output=instlink&q=info:s8P3eNriXscJ:scholar.google.com/&hl=en&as_sdt=0,5&scillfp=9244714906380626359&oi=lle

  • Kurt Benke & Bruce Tomkins, Future food-production systems: vertical farming and controlled-environment agriculture, [online] Available at: https://scholar.google.com/scholar?output=instlink&q=info:WS6QiG5wAegJ:scholar.google.com/&hl=en&as_sdt=0,5&scillfp=2119378100452249441&oi=lle

  • Fred Besthorn, Vertical Farming: Social Work and Sustainable Urban Agriculture in an Age of Global Food Crises, [online] Available at: https://www.academia.edu/download/51074350/Vertical_Farming_Social_Work_and_Sustain20161227-12292-1vevgm9.pdf


Business Case:


AeroFarms: https://www.aerofarms.com/


 

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References:


  1. Malleshaiah SharathKumar et al., Vertical Farming: Moving from Genetic to Environmental Modification, [online] Available at: https://library.wur.nl/WebQuery/wurpubs/fulltext/524751

  2. Fatemeh Kalantari, A Review of Vertical Farming Technology: A Guide for Implementation of Building Integrated Agriculture in Cities, [online] Available at: https://www.academia.edu/download/54726730/AEF.24.76.pdf

  3. Thijs Van Gerrewey, Nico Boon and Danny Geelen, Vertical Farming: The Only Way Is Up? [online] Available at: https://www.mdpi.com/2073-4395/12/1/2/pdf

  4. Joe M. Roberts, Toby J. A. Bruce, James M. Monaghan, Tom W. Pope, Simon R. Leather, Andrew M. Beacham, Vertical farming systems bring new considerations for pest and disease management, [online] Available at: https://hau.repository.guildhe.ac.uk/id/eprint/17525/1/Joe%20Roberts%20Vertical%20Farming%20upload.pdf

  5. Michele Butturini, Leo F.M. Marcelis, Vertical farming in Europe: present status and outlook, [online] Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Michele-Butturini/publication/345002856_Vertical_farming_in_Europe_present_status_and_outlook/links/60364644a6fdcc37a849e5cd/Vertical-farming-in-Europe-present-status-and-outlook.pdf

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