What is Vertical Farming? Everything You Need to Know

Last Updated:
June 22, 2023
What is Vertical Farming? Everything You Need to Know

Humankind can help Mother Nature heal with Vertical Farming. With the growing global population, rate of urbanization, and the decrease of farmable land, we are heading towards a food crisis. By 2050, the population will have reached 9 billion and the additional amount of arable land required to meet food demands will be nearly the size of Brazil.

To secure the future of agriculture, we need to move towards a sustainable and scalable model. The widescale implementation of vertical farming can thwart the impending food crisis with its ability to maximize crop production in a limited space without straining the environment. Keep reading as we explain everything you need to know about vertical farming and how it can revolutionize the agricultural industry.

What is Vertical Farming?


Think of vertical farming as farming in three dimensions. The goal of vertical farming is to maximize crop output in a limited space. This farming method has crops stacked on multiple vertical surfaces as opposed to traditional farming which only uses a single level. As vertical farming is conducted indoors, farmers can control the temperature, humidity, and light to ensure optimal growth conditions for produce without the use of harsh chemicals. 

You may have already eaten vertically grown crops without even realizing it. Agritecture reported that over 20 supermarket chains carry produce from 23 large vertical farms. Vertical farming is on its way to becoming the future of agriculture with its innovative solutions. According to PR Newswire, by 2024, the vertical farming industry is expected to grow to $3 billion.

Why do we need Vertical Farming?


The University of Sheffield’s Grantham Center for Sustainable Futures stated that in the past 40 years, the world has lost a third of its farmable land. Farming requires intense field plowing, fertilizers, and chemicals that degrade the soil. When soil is repeatedly turned over, it becomes exposed to oxygen and its carbon is released into the atmosphere. This comprises the soil’s ability to efficiently store water and grow crops.

As the population continues to rise, the strain on farmable land will only increase. Without major changes to agricultural practices, the damage done to farmed land will be irreversible. Thankfully, vertical farming provides safe and effective growing solutions that will meet our food requirements and allow the land to recover.

How Vertical Farming Works

When you look at images of vertical farming, it seems like something out of a sci-fi movie. However, the concept of this farming method can be broken down into four simple components:

  1. Physical Layout: Crops are grown in stacked layers arranged in a tower structure.
  2. Lighting: Natural and artificial lights are used to create the perfect light levels for each crop's needs.
  3. Growing Medium: Instead of soil, alternative growing mediums are used. Crops may be grown through hydroponics where they sit in a nutrient-rich water basin. Farmers may also utilize aeroponics where the crops are regularly sprayed with a nutrient-based mist.
  4. Sustainability Features: Sustainability practices are used to balance the energy usage of vertical farming.

Vertical Farming Benefits

Vertical farming comes with an amazing assortment of benefits that provide us with long-term agricultural solutions:

  • Produces enough sustainably grown food to feed the growing population without straining natural resources.
  • Maximizes space as one acre of a vertical farm is equivalent to four to six acres of traditional farmland.
  • Depending on the crop, vertical farming requires 70% to 95% less water usage than traditional farming.
  • Allows for high-quality produce production all year through controlled growing conditions, thereby eliminating the limitations of seasonal crops.
  • Indoor crops are unaffected by weather conditions such as droughts, torrential rains, tornadoes, snowstorms, fires, and flooding, resulting in stable production. 
  • Vertical farms can be set up in urban areas, creating jobs and connecting residents with fresh produce.
  • All produce is organic because chemicals are not needed to thwart pests.
  • Far less hazardous than traditional farming since there is no exposure to toxic chemicals, heavy farming equipment, or harsh environmental conditions.
  • Eliminates the potential of chemical runoff associated with traditional farming that utilizes chemicals and damages ecosystems.
  • Improves biodiversity as vertical farming does not require land and allows farmed ecosystems to repair themselves.

When did Vertical Farming Start?

The concept of vertical farming was popularized in the 1990s by Dickson Despommier, a professor of ecology at Columbia University. Despommier challenged his students to devise an agricultural plan that would produce enough food for Manhattan’s residents through just rooftop agriculture. He found that even the best rooftop plan could only feed 2% of Manhattanites.

Despommier proposed that farming could be moved indoors with plants growing on multiple levels. Over the next ten years, Despommier developed the concept of vertical farming with his graduate students. Today, Despommier advocates for vertical farming that utilizes Manhattan’s high-rise buildings and continues to publish his research on the subject.

Best Vertical Farmers

Successful vertical farmers can be found across the world. One industry leader is the Swedish company Plantagon that delivers beautiful and sustainable architectural and agricultural solutions for governments and businesses. Plantagon works to develop, implement, and operate vertical farming solutions, creating green spaces in urban environments.

In 2012, Plantagon built the world’s first large scale urban greenhouse farm at 12-stories tall. This building became known as the International Center of Excellence for Urban Agriculture. To ensure that crops receive an even distribution of light, they are first harvested on ground level then placed on a track that carries them through the sun-exposed building.

In addition to growing produce, the building is also a think tank for devising urban pollution solutions and research lab for testing green technology. Besides creating new structures, Plantagon is ready to help existing offices, residential buildings, and factories implement vertical growing solutions. Plantagon’s agricultural solutions can be a model for for other countries and farmers to aspire to as we strive towards an innovative, effective, and sustainable agricultural future.

Sustainability is our future

As vegans, we understand the importance of sharing ways in which everyone can live healthy and sustainable lives. Vertical farming is a long-term solution to meet the demands of our growing population. Through this growing method, we can protect farmed land, end the use of harsh chemicals, and allow ecosystems to repair. With the growth of vertical farms, you may soon see one popping up in your area and enjoy its delicious produce.

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