Vertical farming, or controlled environment agriculture (CEA), is the name for growing crops in vertically stacked layers. It relies on innovative greenhouse technologies, such as nutrient delivery mediums, rather than the usual growing media.
Many people feel that vertical farming is the future of farming, as it is a sustainable way to grow large amounts of fruit and vegetables in an urban environment. However, despite there being many pros to vertical farming, there are some associated cons as well:
Pros of vertical farming
The pros of vertical farming include the following:
- Stable crop yields – farmers can set the perfect environment for the crop they want to grow, meaning it is easier to predict how many crops they can harvest over time. They can then use this information to make long-term contracts with stores as they will be able to produce a stable supply for them.
- Protection from external conditions – as vertical farming tends to take place inside, the crops are protected against adverse weather conditions such as droughts, floods or storms.
- Crop yields all year long – again, as crops are grown inside, their yields will be more stable, meaning crops can be grown all year round, giving farmers a consistent income.
- Protection against pests – the controlled environment required for vertical farming means there is less chance of pest contamination, leading to higher crop yields.
- Fewer crop losses – as the four pros above show, crops are less likely to be lost to adverse weather or pests, which means a more significant opportunity for profit.
- Increase in profits – as the conditions inside vertical farming premises can be optimised for the crop, the chances are that yields will also be maximised.
- Protection from animals & invasive plant species – In a similar way to how crops are protected from pests, CEA allows crops to be protected from animals that may eat them.
- Ability to grow all kinds of plants – the environment in vertical farming can be controlled to allow for more exotic crops to be produced that may not otherwise thrive in the external environment.
- Savings in water – over 95% of water can be saved with vertical farming practices, as opposed to conventional outdoor farming practices.
- Vertical farming can be organic – as there is no need for pesticides to be used.
- Fewer crop imports are needed.
- More efficient use of land.
- Less habitat destruction.
- Energy generation through composting.
- It can contain more nutrients as nutrient intake can be controlled.
Some of the cons associated with vertical farming include the following:
- Experts needed to set up the project – vertical farms can be quite complex to set up, and because the technology behind them is so new, it can be hard to find the expertise you need in your local area.
- High upfront costs – operational and labour costs can be pretty high at the start of the project, although it will lead to savings.
- High energy consumption – the energy cost of the electricity needed to run the right amount of lights can be pretty high.
- Significant maintenance efforts – technology is key to the success of most vertical farms, as they control humidity and lighting levels. These machines can break down, leading to high maintenance costs.
- The wrong setup could spread pests, especially from maintenance workers coming in to fix a system.
- Pollination problems – bees and other insects are not present in vertical farms, meaning natural pollination will not occur.
- Only suitable for certain kinds of plants. Costs can be pretty high at the moment, so vertical farming may not be ideal for inexpensive crops such as potatoes, as you won’t get a good return on investment (ROI).
- People in rural areas may lose their livelihood if vertical farming takes over conventional agriculture.
Although vertical farming is a promising technology with many advantages (as shown above), it has not reached its full potential yet, and some cons are still associated with it.
However, we believe vertical farming is a successful way to meet rising customer demands for food. Our Gelponics products are an excellent way to help more people achieve this goal.