The urban revolution of farming and how agtech will shape it

Key points

    The benefits of agtech-powered vertical farms

    Current limitations of vertical farming

    What is the future of agtech and vertical farming

By Carlos Miskinis
Blog Writter
Dec 2018

The intense warm climate that is disrupting seasonal weather patterns and the lack of suitable soils in close proximity to cities or other rapidly expanding urban places is the main factor that stops agriculture from achieving full sustainability.  


One potential solution can be the growing trend of vertical farming – a concept that utilizes the old school crop farms and condenses them into much smaller factory-like sites where conditions can be optimized and yields – significantly increased. A prime example of this concept would be facilities like “Aero Farms” in New Jersey that produce crops in an enclosed environment where almost everything (from the lighting and ambient temperature to soil conditions and nutrients) are carefully controlled. The facility uses extensive “vertical racking” to optimize space – a methodology that is way more effective compared to a conventional, horizontal crop farm. This enables vertical farms to be located on a far smaller site and much closer to an established urban area. 


What are the primary benefits of agtech-powered vertical farms


You might be wondering about the actual, practical benefits of this. Well, the innovation greatly reduces the extent of haulage or food miles required to transport produce to consumers, cutting CO2 emissions. Moreover, the process of crop production is insulated from seasonal weather patterns that are highly susceptible to disruption as a result of our changing climate. On a vertical farm, lighting, water and temperature can all be optimized to remove climatic risks and enhance production rates. As a result, sites like Mariah’s facility near Tokyo, the world’s largest city, are able to generate yields that are 50 to 100 times greater than that of a traditional crop farm. The use of a controlled environment also eliminates the loss of birds and insects that must be factored in on conventional farms, cutting the need for harmful pesticides and improving the quality of produce. Vertical farms also optimize the level of nutrients that crops receive, solving the challenge of finding a sufficient extent of suitable farming land in close proximity to a major urban area. In many instances, the soil is also removed altogether and crops are grown on specially engineered membranes, where they are sprayed with nutrient-rich solutions. Of course, vertical farms do have their limitations – we are going to talk about them in part 2 of this article.

Part 2

The cons of vertical farming and how agtech will help

The current limitations of vertical urban farms such as lack of suitable space will hinder the process of adoption

The downsides of urban vertical farms and how agtech can help


Some critics always refer to the levels of energy required to maintain such refined environments. While these concerns are true and valid, several vertical farms are currently being powered by renewable technologies. They also recycle many of their resources as the use of energy-efficient LED lighting reduces power consumption, while the blue and red shades of lights are even more eco-friendly to run. The optimized crop production process also allows vertical farmers to reduce the amount of water used and many vertical farms are served by rainwater harvesting systems. Some even collect and recycle the water that condenses within the controlled environment itself. This closed-cycle approach has the added benefit of preventing nutrients and fertilizers from damaging the land or being washed into rivers and streams.


Though the cost and availability of land for vertical farms in urban areas can pose many challenges, a lot of professional growers seem to find success in using old factories and disused warehouses to make it all happen. If we could get the government involved, grander schemes and new initiatives from their side could even include the production of fish and honey, whilst reconnecting consumers with the food production process and establishing sustainable jobs for the surrounding communities these vertical farms are located in. While vertical farmers still only represent a small part of the global food production industry, the benefits they offer to our ever-expanding population could utterly transform the farming landscape for the better.

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