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:
- Fruits, vegetables and herbs are on superimposed levels Grown in a multi-storey greenhouse complex for 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 prepared 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".
The "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 compostable waste is recycled locally. Basically, with a little care, urban gardening can be practiced anywhere.
DIY Urban gardening: Tips for the home
1. Use balcony:
Enjoy the fresh harvest on your own balcony. Salads, herbs, strawberries, tomatoes, peppers or cucumbers grow well in pots, tubs and boxes. The green thumb comes with time. You can also get tips and tricks from farmers at local markets.
2. Planting a raised bed:
If your own outdoor area is big enough, a raised bed will quickly become your personal vegetable garden. Everything can be grown. From artichoke to chard to zucchini. A cold frame attachment also protects the young plantlets and allows an early harvest.
3. Indoor Gardening:
Herbs feel good on the windowsill. Tomatoes also grow in the big pot when there is enough sunlight. In addition, tree fruit trees remain small and regularly deliver tasty apples, cherries or berries.
4. Community Gardening:
Alternatively, you can join the local community gardening. These are gardens that are commonly operated on publicly accessible land collectively. There are many different variants for it. Private or public land, neighborhood initiatives or schools.
Almost all major cities already have local community gardens. They now serve as an alternative tourist attraction. Inspiration can be found in New York at Liz Christy Community Garden or Camden's Phoenix Garden in London and the activist Can Masdeu in Barcelona. In Germany that is Himmelbeet worth a visit in Berlin.
Himmelbeet Community Garden in Berlin