With the burgeoning world population, and a decline in arable land as a result of desertification, human-induced erosion, degradation of topsoil, there has been a looming threat of food crisis globally. There has been a lot of hype generating around a relatively newer form of farming which grows produce in vertically stacked layers and vertically inclined surfaces, using hydroponics or aeroponics growing methods, in structures like skyscrapers, used warehouses or abandoned buildings. This type of farming is called Vertical farming. While many proponents of vertical farming say that it might be the solution to our impending global food crisis, experts opine that it can only complement conventional farming and not completely replace it.
Still in its nascent stage, many nations have laid down the roadmap for implementing vertical farming in the near future. Two such countries are China, home to the biggest population in the world, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). China is all set to invest big in these farming systems. By 2030, it is estimated to have a population of around 1.45 billion! With diminishing fertile land owing to frequent natural disasters and poor land management system, it can not just afford to rely on the conventional farming system. The UAE too plans to get into vertical farming heavily. At present, it imports more than 80 per cent of its food as the arable area in the country is limited. With abundant sunshine, which can be used as clean energy, the implementation of vertical farming in the country will reduce its reliance on imports. Even in regions like the Middle East, Europe, and The United States, the investment in vertical farming has been rising over the past few years.
It is claimed that vertical farming uses over 90 per cent lesser water than what is used in the conventional one. Benefits range from no usage of herbicides or pesticides in the produce to no weather-related crop failures, as the farming is done in an internally controlled environment. Abandoned and unused urban properties can be put to use to produce food; also, there is an opportunity to create more urban employment. Like everything in life, there are some possible cons too of vertical farming. It can lead to a loss of traditional farming jobs. Unlike in conventional farming, only limited varieties of crops can be produced using vertical farming. It is said to have an impact on the transportation industry, which, in turn, will affect the overall economy of a nation.
There is no doubt that vertical farming will play a larger part in urban farming and agriculture planning in the future. However, at present, more needs to be done to make the system sustainable in terms its energy usage and its efficacy in meeting global food demands. With more innovations, the energy needed in the farming system can be reduced. To scale up the vertical farming, investors are also required, hence, more investment in the start-ups, around vertical farming, should be encouraged. To meet the food demands of tomorrow, vertical farming will, indeed, complement traditional farming!