Vertical Farming Issues Confront Adoption
of the Technology

Are the various vertical farming issues convincing enough to slow down the advocacy in favor of this indoor, urban farming technology? Or to abandon it totally? These questions ought to be addressed in order to accelerate its implementation.

The Vertical Farming Issues

1. The financial feasibility of vertical farming has not been established. A detailed cost-benefit analysis is yet to be made in order to support its advantage over the traditional horizontal farming. There is the possibility that the extra expenditure that will be needed for lighting, heating and power supply will be in excess of the benefits.

2. The advantages of vertical farming are partly based on food miles, the distance that food is transported from area of production to consumption. However, University of Toronto professor Pierre Desrochers revealed in a policy paper that only about 10 percent of the energy utilized in food production is attributable to transportatation. He also argued that the environmental impact of transportation is minimal (Evans, 2009).

3. If fossil fuels will be used to power the vertical farms, the net environmental effect may be in the negative. It is possible that the traditional horizontal farms will burn less coal and contribute less to climatic change.

4. There is no certainty that vertical farms will reduce the area utilized for horizontal farming. It is possible that if ever it is implemented, it will merely become supplementary to the existing farms in producing food and biofuel to meet the incrasing demand. It will be more beneficial to grow many crops like corn, rice and wheat in open fields as compared to many fruits and vegetables.

5. There is an enormous requirement for energy in vertical farming. It is estimated that with 30 storeys, the supplemental light that needs to be supplied per square foot in every floor is ten to forty watts.

Bruce Bugbee, a crop physiologist at Utah State University in Logan, believes that vertical farming would be too expensive to implement and uncompetitive with traditional horizontal farms which use free natural light. He noted that crop growing needs about a hundred percent of light compared to man’s requirement. To feed the Earth’s swelling population, he insists: "Eat less meat." The grazing areas can then be sown with food crops. (Roach, 2009).

More Vertical Farming Issue. What will be the impact of vertical farming on the poor countries? Assuming that all the hindrances for the implementation of the technology have been removed, it is obvious that not all countries have the capacity to supply the needed capital. These countries will have no choice but to continue their traditional crop farming practices. The market of certain food products which can be produced in vertical farms will be adversely affected.

Author's Opinion

 It is the author’s personal opinion that given time, vertical farming or high-rise farming will work. The various vertical farming issues have already been noted. By combining the brains in this world, solutions can be found.

It has to work, in order to insure the availability of food for the future generations to come. It has to, there being no other viable alternative yet. The prediction of Thomas Malthus must be prevented from coming into reality (click to read Thomas Malthus: Only 2 of 1000 Will Survive in 2011 Without Crop Farming).

Yes, a detailed cost analysis needs to be prepared; the environmental effects need to be studied; the huge cost of electricity is a problem; a viable architectural design has yet to be made and tested; many farmworkers will be possibly displaced; the cost of construction and operation is astounding; man’s eating habit may still need to be changed; the poor countries may be adversely affected. The specific issues, “possibles” and "may be’s" are simply too many.

How about the ordinary, poor farmer? Surely he will be affected too. But hopefully for the better. Many plants are not suited to indoor farming and limited space so he can specialize in certain crops outdoor.

And how about the continuing rise in human population? It appears that nothing has been said about the root cause of the arguments.

By 2050, 2.3 billion (3 billion by other authorities) more people will be added to the population. How many more after another 50 years?

As to the advocates of vertical farming, it would help so much if hard data in support to the claims can be shown online. How exactly will a 30-storey building with a base of 80 m x 270 m be able to supply the daily energy and nutritional needs of 50,000 people?

References

Cooper, A. 2009. Going up? Vertical farming in High-Rises Raises Hopes. Retrieved September 18, 2010 from http://www.miller-mccune.com/science-environment/farming-in-high-rises-raises-hopes-3705/.

Evans, P. 2009. Local food no green panacea: professor. Retrieved September 18, 2010 from http://www.cbc.ca/consumer/story/2009/07/22/consumer-local-food.html.

Gomez, J. n.d. Hydroponics in Commercial Food Production. Retrieved September 18, 2010 from http://www.articlesphere.com/Article/Hydroponics-in-Commercial-Food-Production/149113.

Medicalecology.org. n.d.. Vertical farm: how to proceed. Retrieved September 17, 2010 http://www.medicalecology.org/pdf/presentation/VF-How_to_proceed.pdf.

Reitano, E., Del Giacco, E., Touré, S., Gin, G. and I. Ramirez. 2006. Socioeconomic and political implications of vertical farming. Retrieved September 17, 2010 from http://www.verticalfarm.com/PDF/report2006/Socio-Political%20Implications.pdf.

Roach, J. 2009. High-rise farms: the future of food? Retrieved September 18, 2010 from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/06/090630-farm-towers-locally-grown.html.

The Encyclopedia of Earth. 2010. Trunity: Dickson Despommier’s profile. Retrieved September 17, 2010 from http://www.eoearth.org/contributor/dickson.despommier.

Verticalfarm.com. 2010. The vertical farm project: agriculture for the 21st century and beyond. Retrieved September 17, 2010 from http://www.verticalfarm.com/index.html.

Wallechinsky, D., Wallace, I. and A. Wallace. 1978. The People’s Almanac Presents The Book of Lists. USA: Bantam Books, Inc. pp. 255-256.

Wikipedia. 2010. City block. Retrieved October 30, 2010 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_block.

Wikipedia. 2010. Vertical farming. Retrieved September 17, 2010 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vertical_farming.

(Ben G. Bareja)

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