How Vertical Farming Can Improve Food Security

Plant grows in a vertical hydroponic planter. Photo by Ona Creative.
Plant grows in a vertical hydroponic planter. Photo by Ona Creative.

Is a future where our food is grown indoors, high enough to touch the sky, possible? It could be! With vertical farming, the sky is the limit.

For example, a vertical farming greenhouse in the Netherlands produces 69 million cucumbers a year using hydroponics. They’re making cultivation much less “cucumber-some” with every harvest.

  • Vertical farming usually refers to growing food indoors stacked on trays and pipes with LED lighting at each level. Increasingly, vertical farms use hydroponic or aeroponic systems.

This type of farming can be a major player in food security — ensuring fresh greens year round without racking up high food miles. Plus, a shorter supply chain with fewer moving parts is often more secure.

  • A food mile is “the distance between the place where food is grown or made and the place where it is eaten”. Cambridge Dictionary

Growing vertical can also produce higher yields with more consistency. Since these modern farms are indoors, living in a cold climate isn’t a barrier. You can enjoy local, organic produce all year round. **That’s one less excuse to skip your daily vegetables.

However, it’s worth noting that at this stage in vertical farming, there are still limitations.

  • While vertical farming saves a ton of space, the money and energy costs are still high.
  • Some plants require pollination — and bees get confused by artificial lighting.
  • High-value crops that grow quickly — leafy salads, smaller vegetables, and fruits — are the most viable now. Unfortunately, this leaves out key food groups in our diets like grains that may struggle in this environment.

While the technology is promising, it could be a while until you see farms filling up skyscrapers in major cities.

In the meantime, consider starting a vertical micro-farm in your own home. All you need is a little space to start building food security right where you are.

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