Can You Imagine Farming Without Land?
The answer is Yes! The advancements in agriculture and food technology are making this possible. The concept of vertical farming has brought it into reality. It can be done using Aeroponics, Hydroponics, and Aquaponics methods.
Vertical farming’s usefulness under challenging environments of deserts, mountainside towns, and cities that are using precision agriculture methods for growing vegetables and fruits has opened new doors for the agriculture market. It saves soil and lowers the water requirements by around 70%. Moreover, there is no concept of seasonal crop and related issues in Vertical farming. Thus, it reduces crop spoilage and associated costs. Vertical farming also helps farmers to reduce use of insecticides, pesticides, sprays, and other chemicals. Such advantages over the orthodox farming are expected to be the major reasons for the adoption of vertical farming.
Adoption of Vertical Farming:
People are moving towards vertical farming due to scarcity of fertile land and fluctuating weather conditions. Population growth and subsequently rising food demand, reduction in natural sources due to urbanization, soil erosion, water contamination, and costs related to traditional farming & related issues have increased the demand for vertical farming. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, food production needs to be increased by 70% to meet the global food demand by 2050. Further, water shortage is a growing concern. It is estimated that half of the world is expected to experience water scarcity by 2030. Furthermore, annually, more than 40% of the fossil fuel is being used for traditional agriculture purpose. This presents great concerns with respect to saving energy sources. Government policies are also affecting food production and prices. For instance, in the U.S., ethanol mandates diverted corn production from food application to fuel application, and thereby resulted in increase in prices from $3 to $7 per bushel. Thus, owing to these issues, the traditional farming could increasingly become unsustainable. On the other hand, vertical farming could be a solution to all such concerns. Vertical farming has potential to suffice global food demands of ~60% of the population who reside in cities by 2030. However, cost-benefit analysis must be done to support its advantage over the traditional horizontal farming considering the extra expenditure required for lighting, heating, and power supply.
Funding &Support for Vertical Farming:
Governments and startup companies are investing a massive amount of money in vertical farming. Crop One Holdings, Inc., the U.S. based startup company, has announced $40 million joint venture with Emirates Flight Catering (Deira) to develop one of the largest vertical farms in the world. This project is expected to be completed by December 2019 and would rise up in Dubai and harvest 6,000 pounds of leafy greens per day. Another startup company, namely Plenty Unlimited Inc. (U.S.), in July 2017, raised $200 million funding for vertical farming with the vision of producing 4.5 million pounds of greens annually. Further, the startup company, Silicon Valley Agriculture, is preparing to build more than 300 vertical farms across China from 2018. Similarly, in 2018, McCain Foods Limited (Canada) completed a strategic investment in TruLeaf Sustainable Agriculture (Canada), to grow fresh and nutritious leafy greens of high quality and flavour 365 days per year, in an environmentally sustainable ways using vertical farming. Venture capital funding for vertical farming increased from $36 million to $271 million from 2016 to 2017. We believe, this investment is likely to sustain in the upward direction in the coming years, to catapult vertical farming to the next levels.