Technologies Improving Vertical Farming
No Space to Farm? No Problem!
Vertical farming seems to be on its way to shaking the foundations of mainstream farming practices. Indoor farming has become more and more appealing to a wide variety of investors because it allows urban areas to have access to local produce that is both organic and fresh. Two noteworthy companies that have started investing in the vertical farming industry include, Walmart and A & P. According to a recent article published entitled, “Billionaires make it rain on Plenty, the indoor farming startup,” a SoftBank Vision Fund has recently invested $200 million into an indoor farming company called Plenty. So there has been a growing interest among investors that will most likely catapult the vertical farming industry to new heights.
Some of the main criticisms surrounding the vertical farming industry are:
- Modern indoor farming facilities are only designed to produce small greens.
- LED lights use a lot of energy even in the midst advancing technology.
While there is a limitation about the type of crops that can be grown within an indoor growing facility, the rate of production is very rapid. All the same, consistency of process and produce quality is maintained throughout. These facilities might, in theory, be susceptible to an excessively large electric bill. However, a new technology called solid-state lighting (SSL) is able to convert 90% of energy into light. Traditional LED lighting can only convert 10% of energy into light, the remaining 90% turns into heat/radiation. Also, many vertical farming companies such as Aero Farms, have been using smartphone technology in order to control the amount of light emitted by each bulb and thus, they can easily manage their energy output. Another innovative step in vertical farming, that is relatively new to the agricultural industry, is data analytics. Analyzing data in relation to the spectrum/amount of light emitted, allows vertical farmers to optimize texture, taste and the nutrient capacity of various greens produced. And while larger crops are not yet being produced inside vertical farming facilities, new methods are being used such as zipgrow towers, which allow vertical farmers to grow strawberries and other medium-sized crops.
- Converts 90% of energy into light
- Aeroponics farming method has the ability to use 95% less water
- Growing cycle for an average plant takes about 2 weeks
- texture, taste, and nutrition can be fully controlled
Since growing shelves do not require any soil or fertilizer, the greens are clean after harvest. Crops and vegetables cultivated on most modern farms are rinsed/washed after harvest. However, crops and vegetables that are rinsed/washed after being harvested provide conditions suited for microbial growth. The combination of rinsing produce and shipping them across the country is why preservatives and pesticides are commonly used in modern-day farming. Using pesticides and/or preservatives does not only kill off bacterial growth, it also kills off the beneficial eubacteria and other nutrients, which are more readily available in naturally grown produce. This is why vertical farming has become a means to solve many issues within the food/agricultural industry.
Whether vertical farming is the future of agriculture or not, is yet to be seen. Surely enough, it is the beginning of a high tech era of crop cultivation which not only produces many times than that of convention farming but also provides solutions to many of its challenges.