Vertical farming is intended to revolutionize the future of agriculture. To what extent can the concept be implemented at home and in the city
Around 55% of the world's population live in cities. This number is expected to increase to around 2050% by 68. In order to meet the demand for food, products have to be mass-produced and transported over long distances to urban centers. Vertical farming and Urban Gardening are two future-oriented concepts that could enable a return to natural agriculture.
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Vertical farming: what is it?
Vertical farming is a pioneering idea that enables food to produce environmentally friendly and in large quantities directly in metropolitan areas. It's a kind of indoor farming in vertical greenhouses. For this purpose, multi-storey buildings (called "farm scrapers") are grown on levels one above the other. These buildings usually come with a circular economy as well as hydroponics. This enables resource-saving and year-round production.
Advantages and disadvantages of vertical farming
With vertical farming, vegetables can be produced anywhere in the world, in a space-saving manner and regardless of the climate. This is not only intended to meet the growing need for food, but also to relieve traditional agriculture. Long transport routes are also eliminated and, thanks to the circular economy, they are reduced CO2 emissions. Opponents, on the other hand, see vertical farming more as unnatural agriculture. In particular, artificial light and the associated energy requirements are often the focus of criticism.
- Short transport routes and little space required
- Year-round production regardless of climate
- Relief of traditional agriculture
- Automated processes and optimal yield
- Low water consumption thanks to the closed water cycle
- Low use of chemicals and pesticides
- Organic cultivation is therefore also possible
- Artificial lighting increases energy requirements
- Addition of microorganisms and nutrients necessary
- Disposal of LED lamps
- Loss of jobs through automation
- High risk in the event of power failures
- Natural pollination is difficult and costly to perform manually
- Harvest appears of unnatural origin
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Traditional Agriculture vs. Vertical farming
The difference between a modern farm scraper and traditional farming is obvious. However, nowadays the majority of our food is no longer obtained from traditional agriculture, but grown in large greenhouses. A good example of this is the Almeria region in Spain. Millions of tons of vegetables are grown here for export in a 350 square meter Mamut greenhouse.
The area is therefore known for its sea of plastic. Organic vegetables are also grown here. When buying tomatoes in the supermarket, however, one does not have such agriculture in mind. In addition, many conventional arable soils suffer from nutrient poverty and so the optimized harvest from vertical farms is often perceived as tastier and more durable. Conventional agriculture also promotes the clearing of forests to gain new arable land. The use of pesticides and fertilizers also pollutes the environment and people.
According to the Columbia University Compared to traditional agriculture, vertical agriculture uses 70 to 95 percent less water and over 90 percent less land, while 80 percent more is harvested per unit area. But not all plant species have so far been grown in vertical farms; experiments are still required in order to be able to grow different types of vegetables and fruits.
This is how vertical farms work
There is a lot of technology behind vertical farming, characterized by three key characteristics:
- Cultivation of fruits, vegetables and herbs takes place on superimposed levels in a multi-storey greenhouse complex in order to achieve the maximum production per square meter
- Light is an important factor that primarily means special led Lamps is won, but also in combination with natural light
- No soil is used for the planting, instead the food is with the help of hydroponics (water-filled containers) or Aeroponics (closed container with aerosol) attached
Successful projects worldwide - vertical farming companies and start-ups
In the Dutch test facility "Brightbox" For some time now, fresh lettuce and vegetables have been growing with the help of LED light. Brightbox is a research project of the Uni s'Hertogenbosch and several companies from the economy. Above all, the influence of lighting concepts on taste and quality is examined here. Brightbox is located in Venlo, the Netherlands, a pioneering model region for the implementation of Cradle to Cradle Approach.
Another European example is the "AgriCool " in France, which even wants to convert customers into potential vertical farmers with its community program "Coolivator".
One key challenge is "Sky Greens" in Singapore are equipped with 9 meter high racks on which Chinese cabbage, lettuce and spinach can thrive thanks to the power of the sun. The surrounding community is provided with the harvest.
Sky Greens Singapore, Vertical Farming Farmscraper
The small town of Jackson Hole in the US state of Wyoming is a good example. It is located at an altitude of 1.900 meters, which is why traditional agriculture is difficult there. The vertical farming project has a remedy "Vertical Harvest" brought. Vegetables and herbs grow with sunlight on almost 1.700 square meters, divided over three floors.
Other successful companies in the USA with strong investment backing are Bowery Farms, Aerofarms and Bright Farms. Particularly noteworthy is Bowery Farms, a Google Venture Partner, which focuses on cultivation free of pesticides and genetic engineering.
But vertical greenhouses can not only be used for food. This would also be an interesting and efficient model for the development of ingredients for natural cosmetics. Bio Effect usr is already a pioneer in this regard. The barley used for the cosmetic product is grown in a 2200 square meter greenhouse in Iceland. Powered by geothermal energy, the young plants grow in bacteria-free volcanic ash, irrigated with Icelandic spring water.
Vertical farming for the home
For high-tech lovers, there are even indoor greenhouses for your own four walls. As big as a refrigerator, herbs and vegetables thrive in them without sunlight and earth. Operators for this are, for example, the start-up company neoFarms, The technology is based on LED light and hydroponics. This means that the plants grow without soil in containers filled with water and nutrients.
Another successful start-up called Infarm grows herbs and salads on site in restaurants and supermarkets. The refrigerators with the pink light are already represented in many cities around the world. You can find where exactly the transparent high shelves can be found here look.
Quelle & Copyrght by Infarm - Herbal shelf in the supermarket
Vertical farming vs. urban gardening
Small, local, individual: urban horticulture is also a concept that emerged in response to climate change and urban population growth. Sustainable production and conscious consumption are at the center of this idea. Food is cultivated and harvested collectively on mostly small, public areas in the immediate vicinity of settlements. Transport routes are also eliminated and the recycling of compostable waste takes place locally. Basically, with a little care, urban gardening can be practiced anywhere.
How does vertical farming work at home too?
A little preparatory work is necessary, otherwise vertical farming is child's play. If you already know a little about urban gardening, vertical farming is just the next step to save space and work more efficiently.
The right place
Since vertical farming involves planting on several levels, it is important that you position your plants so that everyone receives sufficient light. If there is no space directly in front of the window, you should pay attention to see-through walls, especially when the closets are closed. If you switch to artificial lighting instead of natural lighting, we recommend purchasing an indoor full-spectrum plant lamp. Please note that the use of artificial light sources causes a significantly higher power consumption.
Cupboard, shelf or rather a showcase?
How you want to lay out your vertical garden depends a lot on where you can find space for it and what you may already have. A simple shelf is often sufficient on the balcony or in the garden. For the colder months or plants that need a lot of warmth, we recommend a showcase or a small greenhouse. They are also available on a small scale for the balcony and protect your precious plants from wind and weather. In your home, plants are happy with any storage method, as long as they get enough light. If you want to trust something more special plants that require certain humidity or temperatures, we recommend a lockable display cabinet. Thus, the plants are still nice to look at and can grow in the ideal climate.
Irrigation and maintenance
Irrigation can be a bit more complicated at times. The question here is whether you want to actively care for your plants or use a passive method.
With passive irrigation, a water and nutrient tank is installed below the plants. The plants are connected to the liquid by a wick. Irrigation works via the capillary action of the wick and thus leads the nutrient-rich water to the plants in the pot. This method is only suitable for small plants and herbs, as only little water and oxygen is absorbed.
Active irrigation requires a bit of craftsmanship. Because here the plants are supplied with water and oxygen with the help of pumps.
Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)
The nutrient film technique is characterized by the fact that the plants are planted at a slight angle. Because with the help of a water pump, the nutrient solution is constantly directed over the platform on which the plants are standing. The roots are thus permanently flushed and there is no accumulation of nutrients, as the liquid can drain off. This is a relatively simple method for actively watering salads and herbs in vertical gardening.
Deep Water Culture
Deep water culture is an irrigation method in which the plants swim permanently in the nutrient solution. Here it is particularly important that oxygen is supplied to the roots with a pump. Otherwise there is a risk that the plants will not grow evenly or even die out. The method is one of the most efficient in terms of yield, but has the disadvantage that the oxygen pump has to run permanently. It is particularly suitable for plants with large root balls that require a lot of water and oxygen.
Ebb & Flow system
The name of the ebb and flow system explains the next method of active irrigation. The water pump, which supplies the plants with the nutrient solution, is switched on and off with a timer. Care should be taken to create drainage facilities so that the plants do not drown. Thanks to the time clock, the power consumption is comparatively low and the nutrient uptake can be ideally monitored. This method is also suitable for beginners as it is easy and inexpensive to recreate.
Last but not least, there is the drip irrigation method. This is also ideal for self-catering and is very efficient. Depending on which plant you choose here, the plant is permanently supplied with the right amount of nutrients. The system can be adjusted according to the needs of your own plants and is therefore versatile.
Inquire exactly which method is most suitable for your plants. Do they need a lot or little water? Is sporadic care enough or do you need constant nutrient addition? After that, it's not that difficult anymore. For the DIY variants, depending on the method, you need a water or air pump, a large container for the nutrient solution and plant baskets. If the natural light sources are insufficient, you will also need a plant lamp.
It shows that it is not only people in the countryside who have the opportunity to provide for themselves with fruit, herbs and vegetables. Even people in cities with little space can become self-sufficient thanks to vertical farming. This not only saves money, but also guarantees food that is free of harmful substances and is also a pleasure!