As the world’s population grows and people move towards urban areas, locally sourced fresh produce will become more important.
One possible approach is vertical farming with hydroponic agriculture. Vertical farming would involve using an enclosed facility and growing crops in vertically stacked layers. In this climate-controlled environment, crops could be grown year-round. Everything could be controlled to insure optimal production of crops.
The primary approach with vertical farming is to grow the crops hydroponically. In this approach, a water solution containing the required nutrients is provided to the plants.
Video Spotlight: Growing Up: How Vertical Farming Works
This post is based on TheHill.com article, This is where the food of the future will be grown: Vertical farms offer a number of significant advantages–and they help conserve precious resources, by Eileen Abbot, January 1, 2020, and the YouTube video, Growing Up: How Vertical Farming Works, by The B1M, March 6, 2019. Image source: © Bert Hoferichter / Alamy.
1. What supply chain advantages does vertical farming offer?
Guidance: Vertical farming offers several supply chain advantages. The first is crops that can be grown closer to urban centers, without requiring farmland that is becoming scarcer as urban centers expand. And, most importantly, transportation is reduced. This saves on cost and reduces the associated pollution and energy consumption. Reduced transportation also allows crops to be delivered in a fresher condition to the customer.
Another advantage is that vertical farming is a controlled environment. It is not at the mercy of the weather. Crops can be grown year-round. Climate change will not impact production. These factors removes uncertainty from the production side.
A final advantage is that the crops are grown optimally. This reduces the amount of water and nutrients needed for production.
2. What are the drawbacks to vertical farming?
Guidance: Currently, the biggest drawback of vertical farming is cost. At the moment, it is cheaper to grow crops in soil. The primary reason is the cost of energy. As some of the vertical farms become powered by solar, this may change.
Another drawback is that not all crops can be grown using this method. Typical crops grown using this method include lettuces, tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers.
Another concern deals with whether hydroponically grown crops can be considered organic. Some definitions of organic require that the crops are grown in soil. Additionally, it is thought that the natural environment of sun, wind, and rain produces a superior product. This is important as organic crops command premium prices, and many customers looks specifically for organic crops.