In just another thirty years, the world population is expected to increase by another 2 billion. Therefore, feeding it would be a huge challenge since industrial development and rapid urbanization has taken loads of arable land from us. Unfortunately, in the next 50 years, we will increase by another 2 billion in number and we do not actually know how much land we are going to lose, needless to say, it will also be huge. As a result, increasing food demand with the ever-increasing population and a decreasing arable land poses a very difficult challenge to all of us. A possible solution to this challenge is “vertical farming” which might be the future of agriculture.
What is Vertical Farming?
It is the practice of producing food on vertically inclined surfaces. Instead of cultivating food crops and vegetables on a single level, such as in a field or greenhouse, this system produces food in vertically stacked layers integrated into tall buildings or old warehouses.
Since it is a type of indoor farming system, various components like temperature, light and humidity can be artificially controlled. The primary goal of vertical farming is “maximizing crop outputs in a limited space”.
Components of Vertical Farming.
There are four critical components of vertical farming which helps us to understand how vertical farming works –
· Physical layout
· Growing medium
· Sustainability features
The first and foremost aim of vertical farming is to increase the yield of crops per unit area. To achieve this, crops are cultivated stacked layers in a tower-like structure. Secondly, a perfect blend of natural and artificial lights is used to maintain the perfect level of light in the room. Thirdly, instead of soil, aeroponics, aquaponics or hydroponics, a nutrient-rich growing medium is used. Peat moss, coconut husks and palm husks are very common materials used in vertical farming. Lastly, the vertical farming method uses various sustainability features to help the cause of the environment. In fact, vertical farming requires 95% less water due to the absence of any traditional irrigation system.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Vertical Farming .
The advantages include –
· It allows crops to grow year-round with no constraints.
· Uses a significant amount of less water.
· Weather does not affect the crops since the natural conditions can be artificially controlled.
· Use of organic farming is more convenient and there is less exposure to harmful pesticides, insecticides, herbicides and diseases.
The disadvantages include –
· Highly expensive for small and marginal farmers.
· Pollination would be very difficult since all the natural pollinating agents are barred from entering.
· It would require highly skilled laborer's and would draw a significant amount of high labor costs.
· It highly relies on artificial intelligence and technology and thus power loss and cuts would result in the complete lockdown of the farm.
Vertical farming technologies are still relatively new and are a long way from common use, at least in the scenario of Indian agriculture. However, with the advantages of significant amounts of less water usage and zero constraints from other physical hazards like weather and climate, it might be a worthy investment for the near future and all-round sustainable development.