By 2025, the population of the world will increase from 6.6 billion to 8 billion. Giant swathes of farmland are disappearing each year as deserts continue to grow larger. At the moment, people are still able to survive due to advances in farming technology. However, the natural resources in our planet will eventually run out. Food is the most vital factor for human civilization, so scientists are testing a new crop method called vertical farming.
Vertical farming would transform land farms into skyscrapers. Hydroponic soil-free techniques would be used in the towers to cut the demand for energy. Instead of using gas or coal, it will be powered by a process that converts city sewage into energy. This technique would also free farmland for growing trees, helping to reduce carbon dioxide and improve global warming. Currently, agriculture is responsible for over 14% of greenhouse gases. Vertical farms could also be grown anywhere, lessening the need to transport food over long distances.
Vertical Farming Disadvantages
Numerous vertical farming disadvantages prevent it from being used on a large scale. Although this technique is capable of producing higher yields, the maintenance is also much higher. A hydroponic system will require frequent replenishment for nutrients, along with continual flushing to remove fowl water. Farmers will require far more resources compared to traditional farming techniques.
Not all plants will respond to hydroponic techniques. For example, citrus trees and potatoes will need to have roots in a semi solid material, such as coconut fiber or soil. Since hydroponic farming uses water as its base, it is not efficient for growing many common fruits and vegetables. There have been a few prototype designs for adding an artificial porous base for these plants to grow, but none of them has been implemented.
Pollination from insects is crucial for distributing nutrients amongst plants. Vertical farming will require an insect-free environment, so the pollination will need to be done by hand. Pollinating plants is labor intensive and may increase the cost of production, causing crop prices to rise.
A major goal of vertical farming is to eliminate transport costs caused by farmlands being located far outside the city. However, urban land is much costlier than rural farmland. There are also numerous side costs, such as controlling ambient temperatures and powering lights for the skyscraper. This is expected to cost farmers much more than they would conventionally pay for growing food. In order for vertically grown crops to be successful, careful attention will need to be given to the arrangement, pollination, temperature, and lighting of the plants.
With the cost factors being the biggest drawback, vertical farming is not expected to take off for at least another decade. Currently, there is still enough land to feed countries in most parts of the world. Once cheaper solutions have been discovered, it may revolutionize traditional farming. Within the next few decades, traditional farmers may start working together with skyscraper farmers to grow crops that are too expensive to grow in an artificial environment. Although there are numerous vertical farming disadvantages, the concept is certainly not outlandish.