It’s no secret that the agriculture sector is a major greenhouse gas emitter. And it may be the most difficult problem to solve unless we already have the solution. Vertical farms have been steadily growing as a market.
In fact, as of 2020, the market reached an evaluation of $5.5 billion. It is expected to more than triple by 2026. So, what exactly is a vertical farm?
Vertical farms refer to farms where the crops are grown in vertical layers in an indoor environment. This means that sunlight is artificially generated, which in turn means they can grow crops year-round.
These types of farms are also far more efficient when it comes to water management. for reference, NordicHarvest said its vertical farm is 250 times more efficient in regards to water. That’s a big factor as parts of the world continue to face droughts.
Another huge advantage of vertical farms is that they can be built anywhere. This can help dramatically reduce how much transportation is involved when moving food. That alone would significantly cut emissions.
You might be thinking that these types of farms produce less, but it’s the opposite. Vertical farms are controlled environments, which produce much better yields because the climate is not a factor. A normal farm harvests twice a year, whereas a vertical farm can do it a dozen times a year depending on the crop.
Despite all of these benefits, why aren’t there more vertical farms?
Vertical Farms Are Not Cheap
Anyone familiar with farming will understand that farming is not a cheap practice. However, vertical farms take this to the next level.
These farms have to be built from the ground up with advanced systems in place to better manage the lighting and water. Compare this to traditional farmland, where you can start planting without construction.
That said, over the lifespan, a vertical farm will be more profitable as it can grow all year long. There are also energy concerns.
As you might imagine, an artificial farm will use a lot of electricity between the lighting and water system. While these can be powered by renewable energy, that just is not accessible in every location.
At least, not at the moment.
Thus, if the building is powered by fossil fuels, it may be contributing to the problem instead of solving it.
So like most things, the initial cost of building is typically enough to scare away investors, but that is slowly changing.
Are They Climate Positive?
The main advantage over traditional farms is land usage. A traditional farm, or horizontal farm, covers up a huge area of land, whereas these do not. Instead, they build upwards, and sometimes downwards.
However, we cannot ignore the power consumption. While this is easily remedied with renewable energy, it adds to the initial cost.
That said, even if they do use fossil fuels, they are still better than traditional farms in a myriad of ways, especially since they can be built locally and reduce transportation emissions. With the market forecast looking to more than triple in the next four years, they have a bright future.
Robert has been following and writing about environmental stories for years at GreenGeeks. He believes that highlighting environmentally friendly practices can help promote change in every household.