The success or otherwise of food production has always depended heavily on the weather, and with the current variations in climate and extreme weather events worldwide, the state of farming has never been as precarious.
Vertical farming is the latest trend in the UK and is catching on fast. Statistics show that by 2018 it was worth around £1.72 billion globally, which is expected to continue rising.
What is Vertical Farming?
Vertical farming is the name given to the practice of growing crops in stacked layers, inside buildings and under tightly controlled conditions. Plants grown in this way do not need sunlight, just UV light.
For growers curious about whether this could be the way forward, consider getting help and advice from a leading company in the latest agri-technology and gelponics sector. Before you do, however, here, we will give a few ideas on why vertical farming could be good for your business.
Control the Growing Environment
One of the main benefits is that the farmer is in complete control of the growing environment – light, water and temperature – so they are not dependent on the vagaries of the weather. All-year-round growing means the farmer can maximise income.
Less Space Needed
Traditional farms have in the past needed many acres of arable, fertile land for rotational crop production. The problem is that, in the UK, where ground and consumables prices are high, and there is increasingly less land available for growers, farmers have to work harder to produce enough food for the country’s needs.
Vertical farming turns all this on its head as less horizontal space is needed; the vertical farm can be located and built anywhere regardless of local weather conditions.
Expansion is easy as you can add extra layers when needed so that more crops can be produced within the same footprint. Experiments so far have indicated that it is possible to grow the equivalent of ten acres of crops in only one acre of a vertical farm. It is a no-brainer, therefore, to expect higher productivity from a much smaller land mass.
Lower Labour Costs
Labour costs have always been a significant headache for traditional farmers as farming is generally a labour-intensive industry. Indoor vertical farming is, on the whole, fully automated, so large numbers of workers are not needed for general production. More labour may be required at harvest time, but with the new robotic agri-technology coming in, annual labour costs should gradually diminish even if production is scaled up.
Huge Advantages for the Environment
A recent report by the BBC on a vertical farm located in an old carpet factory in Belgium found that this method of crop production uses less water than traditional farming as the ‘shelf system’ enables water to be, in effect, reused as it trickles down from one layer to the next. Excess water is then collected at the bottom level to be recycled upwards. It is easy to see how this method could benefit more arid areas of the UK.
No Harmful Chemicals Required
The tightly controlled environment and humidity level of the vertical farm ensure that no pests, diseases or fungi can enter, so where adequate control is maintained, crop damage is unheard of. Therefore, no harmful pesticides or other chemicals are needed, ensuring food is clean, healthy and safe for the consumer.
Reduced Carbon Footprint
Vertical farming requires no large-scale heavy equipment for any part of the crop production. Therefore, there is no land surface disturbance to upset biodiversity, and the use of fossil fuels is significantly reduced.