Earth has now lost a third of its productive lands. Soil erosion continuously causes disaster for farmers. Farms are turning to commercial buildings or houses. Agricultural lands emit greenhouse gases. As a human, what can we do to make a change? What are the changes that we need to do to cope with losses? What can we do to survive? And, what role does vertical farming play to solve these concerns?
Vertical farming, in my own definition, is a way that growers can use to maximize space in a certain location. Anyone or, even, everyone can grow their own food through this method. You wanted to grow your own vegetables in the house? Build a stacked bed in your kitchen. Want to have food while working? Encourage your bosses to make an indoor farm in your rooftop. Through this method of growing, we now can’t deny the fact that vertical farming is slowly revolutionizing the way we grow food today.
Using the Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) technology, it allows crops to fully grow with artificial light and minimal use of soil. Also, it controls the temperature of the room, light, humidity, and gases that make it possible to grow high quality and quantity of crops.
What are key features of Vertical Farming?
Lettuces. Kales. Basils. Squash. Eggplants. Cucumbers. Herbs. Spinach. Tomatoes. Fruits. Flowers.
These are just some of the things that we can grow through vertical farming. Imagine how we can grow an entire farm in just an acre or less? In actuality, there are four things that we need to consider before adopting vertical farming.
The main goal of vertical farming is to grow foods within a small space. The thing that we need to consider at first is the physical layout of the space because it will depend on the growing state of each plant. So, if we want to grow big and space-consuming products, we might as well consider getting a larger space than a square meter. But, if we only want to grow our own foods which we can get whenever we cook, we could use stacked beds to grow different crops at a time.
A perfect combination of natural and artificial light is also important. Because we’re growing indoors, crops can only get a minimal amount of natural light. That’s why we need to invest in a good and perfect artificial lighting. One of the best artificial lights that is available to the market is LED lights. First, it is efficient, cheaper, and a great selection of light source. In lighting, growers use different combination of lights to achieve the quality that we want in a crop. In vertical farming, growers do not use pesticides or other farm chemicals because its controlled environment alone already allows crops to grow perfectly healthy and rich in nutrients.
Instead of growing in the soil, in vertical farming there are three techniques that growers can adopt to minimize the use of it. First, Aeroponics is the process where growers utilize the air or mist environment to grow crops, other than soil. It is said that air cultures optimizes access to air for a successful plant growth. Second is the Aquaponics. Aquaponics is a process where crops are fed through aquatic animals’ discharge or waste. Don’t feel cringe, because, in return, the crops clean the water that goes back to the aquatic animals. Last is the hydroponics. Hydroponics is a process where crops are grown using mineral nutrient solutions in a water solvent. These nutrients came from fish waste, duck manure, or chemical fertilizers.
Aside from these three, there are also other ways that growers can use such as peat moss, coconut husks, and other non-soil mediums.
An average vertical farm uses 95% less water. Its sustainable features such as reducing the costs spent in energy, water, soil, and chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. Growers must always have this checklist in attaining a sustainable vertical farm.
- Health and safety of workers.
- Food safety and quality assurance.
- Pest management and pesticide use
- Water conservation and management
- Community relations
- Waste management
- Energy and climactic conditions.
- Site and facility characteristics.