What is vertical farming?

Summary

  • Vertical farming is a farming technique in which plants and crops are grown indoors in vertically stacked layers and under an artificially controlled environment.
  • Hydroponics, aquaponics, and aeroponics are three techniques of vertical farming.
  • The technique was developed to meet the rising demand and increase production in scenarios where resources are scarce.

With the ever-growing population, there is a rapid growth in the demand for agricultural products. Over 50% of basic human needs such as food, clothes, and medicines are sourced from the agricultural sector.

Given the rise in demand, experts have been continuously looking for means to increase productivity using various farming techniques.

One of such techniques includes growing crops indoors, under a controlled environment, including regulated light and temperature levels. The objective of this technique, vertical farming, is to increase productivity within a limited space.

Vertical farming is a soil-less technique. The different methods of conducting vertical farming are hydroponics, aquaponics, and aeroponics. Compared to other traditional ways of farming, vertical farming utilizes less water and pesticides. Furthermore, as the crops are grown indoors and are thus not subject to seasonal changes, one can witness a significant increase in productivity.

Why do we need vertical farming?

Vertical farming techniques support increases in the productivity of crops to meet the growing demand of the people. Some of the key reasons why there is a need to adopt the vertical farming techniques are highlighted below:

Rising Population

The human race is growing at a rapid pace. As a result, there is an upsurge in the demand for food items. Looking at this data, experts introduced the vertical farming technique to ensure there is adequate food supply to each individual.

Scarcity of resources

Plants require soil, water, and light to grow. However, due to the lack of resources, it becomes challenging to meet the growing demand for food. These factors influence the need for farming techniques that can meet the demand despite the scarcity of resources.

Environmental threats

There is a considerable likelihood that crops grown using traditional farming practices are impacted by natural calamities such as drought, flood, hailstorm, torrent rains, etc. In such a scenario, farmers, as well as consumers, bear the brunt. These challenges led to experts look for innovative and more productive ways, giving rise to the vertical farming technique where crops are grown under artificial conditions in a closed environment.

Techniques of vertical farming

Vertical farming is done using three techniques - Hydroponics, Aeroponics, and Aquaponics.

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Hydroponics

In this method, food is grown in water with the help of mineral nutrient solutions without soil. The advantage of using this method is that it reduces soil-related cultivation problems such as pests, soil-borne insects, and diseases.

 Aquaponics

The term aquaponics is derived from two words aquaculture and hydroponics. In this technique, the plant is grown without soil to give a symbiotic relationship between plants and fish.

The symbiosis is achieved via nutrient-rich waste from fish tanks that serve as fertigate to hydroponic production beds. In return, hydroponic beds function as bio-filters that eliminates gases, acids, chemicals like ammonia, nitrate, phosphate, etc.

Aeroponics

NASA initiated the technique to grow plants in space during the 1990s. In this technique, there is no source to grow crops. In this, the crops are grown using mist or nutrient solutions instead of water. Also, plants are tied to support, and roots are sprayed with nutrient solutions. Thus, plants need less space, water, and no soil.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of vertical farming?

While vertical farming has significant advantages over the traditional method, the modern technique also has its fair share of drawbacks. Let us have a look at the significant advantages and disadvantages of adopting this technique:

Advantages

  • The biggest advantage of growing crops through vertical farming is that each area is fully utilized in producing food.
  • Another significant advantage of growing crops through vertical farming is that the crops can be made available to the people even during the off-season period.
  • Vertical farming also reduces transportation costs to a significant level.
  • Vertical farming does not require soil. Hence reduces the chance of pest or any other plant disease.
  • The crops are free from pesticides and air pollution.

Disadvantages:

  • Vertical farming involves considerable farming costs.
  • The set-up expenditure to create an artificial environment is considerably high compared to traditional means of farming which require natural light.
  • To grow crops using vertical farming techniques need trained and skilled people.
  • It is also essential to dispose of the water properly in this form of farming.
  • In vertical farming, there is a need for an LED light to generate optimum temperature during cultivation. However, this becomes challenging during the summer season in maintaining the temperature as LED produces heat within the premises.

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