product designer


Vertical Farming

What is Vertical Farming?

Vertical Farming is the practice of food production using vertically stacked layers within skyscrapers, shipping containers or warehouses. Today, the practice uses technology to create enabling conditions for sustainable food production. This is facilitized through the use of artificial lighting, environmental control (humidity, temperature, gases, etc) and fertigation. As discussed in my previous blog posts, radical changes are needed within agriculture to sustain food production during a time of environmental concern. It is also estimated that by 2050, 80% of the population will live in urban areas and the total population of the world will increase by 3 billion. If these estimations are correct, a very large amount of land will be needed to. Scientists are worried that such demand for land for farming, will cause severe damage to the earth. If designed properly, Vertical Farming could be used to eliminate the need for more farmland and inevitably create a cleaner environment.

Examples include, Sky Greens, a three storie-high vertical farm in Singapore. Situated in a greenhouse, the farm produces 5 to 10 times more per area compared to conventional farms. The farm uses a low-carbon hydraulic system to grow lettuces and cabbages all year round. Sky Greens main objectives are to provide improved agricultural solutions with minimal impact on land, water and energy resources, help cities with supply food security and to promote low carbon footprint agriculture into urban living.

 Sky Greens Vertical Farm, Singapore. Photo Credit: Sky Greens.

Sky Greens Vertical Farm, Singapore. Photo Credit: Sky Greens.

Another example is Plantagon Agritechture and Sweco Architects 'World Food Building' situated in Linköping, Sweden. The fifteen story "plant-scraper" is a vertical, space efficient greenhouse designed for cities to provide consumers with locally grown, organic produce. The company to provide the Asian market with their solutions. Asian cities are densely populated, therefore access to land is extremely low and price is extremely high. 

 'World Food Building'. Photo Credit: Sweco Architects

'World Food Building'. Photo Credit: Sweco Architects

Advantages of Vertical Farming include:

  • Increased nutrient absorption.
  • Less amounts of fertilizer, chemicals, and water is used compared to conventional farming.
  • Chemicals can be filtered to reduce the risk of contaminating water.
  • Nutrient distribution can be controlled in terms of time and rate. This helps to minimize the waste of nutrients are only distributed when required by plants.
  • Minimised risk of roots contracting soil born diseases through contaminated soil.
  • Reduced soil erosion as nutrient are pumped through a water drip system. 

Although, Vertical Farming has issues associated with energy consumption. This is mainly surrounding the supplementary light that is needed to provide light to areas, which would otherwise go without. Where as, conventional farming on flat obtains sun light naturally- during season. Furthermore, depending on the method of electricity generation used produce created through Vertical Farming can create more pollution, than that of field produce. 

Next Steps

  • Explore solutions to the issues related to energy consumption in terms of supplementary light.
  • Explore how vertical farming could produce economically viable yields.
Rebecca Williamson