With the real estate sector growing rapidly, there is an enormous increase in the civil and construction projects. With the erection of the high raised buildings, there is no vacant space left on the land for farming. Additionally, the fast-paced developments in urbanization have made it difficult for the citizens to avail and purchase a vacant site. This is one of the huge causes affecting not only the surrounding environment but also the way the people are leading their busy lives. Today’s environment is no more a part of Green Revolution and the air that the society breathes is full of toxic gases.
Several indirect problems that are leading to the rapid rate of destruction due to urbanization are lack of availability of food production, diminished levels of fauna and flora, various forms of pollution, health and lifestyle changes, natural and man-made disasters etc. Hence it is necessary that every individual owes to the responsibility of putting forward a small step towards the positive change. Hence, one such element that can add the positive aura to our lives is Vertical farming.
Factors of Conventional Farming
The conventional farming is dependent on following factors:
- Types of soils in Indian geography; Other relative factors include nutrient management, fertilizer use, and waste management;
- Rate of depletion of Groundwater; Other relative factors include Water conservation and management;
- Factors related to Energy consumption and quality assurance;
- Temperature, rainfalls, sudden changes in climatic conditions and other unfavorable weather conditions;
- Occurrence of natural calamities such as floods, droughts, earthquakes, cyclones etc.;
- Challenges that farmers face in terms of operations, marketing, distribution and sales of crop produce;
- Dependency on agrochemicals such as pesticides and fungicides for sustainable crop production resulting in high toxic levels in consuming food ;
- Government policies and regulations on agricultural land and farmers;
- Increase in the demand and supply chains due to the increasing rate of population;
- Urbanization and land acquisitions by private and public run organizations;
- Conventional agriculture methods being unremunerative and non-profitable;
The Vertical Farming Brief
Vertical farming is considered as one of the best options, by many policymakers, food scientists, horticulturists, and agriculturists, as it uses the urban space effectively to consistently produce quantitative and qualitative foods.
Vertical farming or vertical gardening involves techniques to grow own fruits and vegetables at home with or without soil and sunlight. Additionally, the varieties of plants are grown indoors on vertically stacked beds, instead of the horizontal surface. Also, this activity can be carried out on a large scale as a commercial business by anyone who has the potential to face the challenges related to setting up a viable infrastructure. Hence, vertical farming is possible with the usage of the right technology and the right crops.
The usage of natural light, soil, and water is maintained to be used at minimal levels by depending on the methods such as hydroponics, aeroponics, and aquaponics growing mediums to accomplish the goals of growing the plants in the vertically stacked surfaces. Hence, the factors that the vertical farming depends on the physical structure used to grow plants, the sustainability features, the lighting and the growth medium.
The Common Growth Mediums of Vertical Farming
- Hydroponics – The plants are grown in a nutrient-rich basin of water. The water is recycled several times after it is evaporated from the plant and it is then recaptured from the humid air alongside a UV light treatment to curb the spread of an infection or a disease.
- Aeroponics – The crops’ roots are periodically sprayed with a mist containing water and nutrients. These roots grow in the air until they are long enough to be grown under hydroponics. These roots have less water consumption overall.
- Aquaponics – It involves breeding the fishes to help cultivate the essential bacteria for providing the nutrients to the plants.
- Vermiponics –It combines hydroponics and vermiculture techniques. This is a soil-less growing technique which uses diluted worm tea as the nutrient base.
- Bioponics – It is a soil-less technique which works on techniques such as
- flood and drains or ebb and flows as media beds;
- nutrient film technique in seeping troughs;
- deep water culture on floating rafts and
- The air layer technique on stationary rafts;
Advantages of Vertical farming
- Any person can learn, adapt and operate the vertical farming independently with knowledge on the crop cultivation, expertise in planning and managing the operations, sales, marketing, and distribution strategies;
- Adds aesthetic green value to the living environment;
- Produces quality flowers, fruits, and vegetables free of pesticides and chemicals;
- Grow the plants with medicinal properties;
- Promotes the health of the society with regulated and improved food safety ;
- Uses the urban space effectively;
- Reduced garbage disposal problem;
- Constant production of food throughout the year, with high and fast yield, encountering the demand and supply chains to meet the needs of the growing population;
- Extensive use of abandoned spaces, rooftops of the buildings, unfertile land, easy installation and integration with the existing building structures;
- Grow the plants easily in artificially controlled environments with limited supply of sunlight, temperature, air, humidity, gases, and growth triggering nutrients;
- Grow each species of plant under a tailored growth plan according to its needs, under the artificial hardware and lighting; usage of various forms of renewable energy resources;
- Less risk of contamination with lesser usage of water;
- No fear of famine and drought or any other unfavorable weather conditions;
- Sale of vertical farms estates rather than vertically farmed crops;
- Existing conventional agricultural methods to be converted to usage in vertical farming ;
- Literate the farmers, train them and deploy them into various forms of crop production, packaging and distributing activities thus generating a skilled employment;
- Convergence of various agricultural and horticultural institutions; tie up with other national international and, research, science, and technology institutions in the same field of work to study on diversified methods of food production;
- Brings the concepts of agriculture closer to the user by being human and environment-friendly agriculture viable and cultivated in every household/indoors; Encourages the bio-diversity;
Disadvantages of Vertical farming:
The advantages of vertical farming are apparent and this concept is at the basic stage. ALthough, Japan and China claim to have set up well established large-scale vertical farm manufacturing factories for the high yield food production. The methods and technologies used under the vertical farming business are still emerging and are relatively new. There are very few countable vertical farming startups in India such as Bangalore based GreenSage, Goa-based Letcetra Agritech, Chennai based future farms, Jaipur based Hamari Krishi, Junga freshgreen, a unit of a Netherlands company in India.
Few known challenges of vertical farming are as follows:
- Yet to establish and evolve as a business opportunity in the economy;
- Uncertainty in feasibility studies, the direct and indirect costs involved, infrastructure set up, procurement and adoption of technologies, importing the necessary machinery and equipment;
- Challenges related to installation and implementation of technologies to imitate the natural processes of fauna such as the pollination and the plant growth;
- Fewer skilled workforce and increased labor costs;
- Imparting the necessary education.
- Implementing it at the level of local farmers community in sharp contrast to the well-established business giants;
- Challenges related to investment on land and buildings in urban area, crop selection, distribution plans, location of growing plants and indoor controlled environments, costs of technology and energy requirements associated with controlled environments;
- Setting a pricing strategy based on the value creation;
More Resources on Vertical farming:
To dig deeper into the vertical farming and know more, refer to the following resources
• Association of vertical farming (AVF)
• Upstart university (Upstart)
• Agtech innovation center (Agrown)
• The open agriculture community (OPENAG)
• Soil of the states (SOTS)
• The Vertical Farming Summit (TVFS)
• Square roots (sroots)
• Nick Greens Team (NickGreens)
• Workshops on Vertical farming at Farm.one (Farmone)
• Agritecture workshops (Agritecture)
• Bright Agrotech Videos(AgroVideos)
Though there are challenges in vertical farming, these challenges can be eliminated over the time. Hence, by constantly and steadily implementing the concepts of vertical farming. Additionally, considering the advantages, the vertical farming is a concept that India should adopt as it has a potential to solve major economic crisis related to the food production industry and urbanization.
A steady progress can not only help the vertical farming business to grow effectively by efficiently learning from mistakes but also help this business to attain the required stability and sustainability standards. Though implementing the vertical farming concepts as a business might incur certain losses at initial stages of the business take-off and might require a huge onetime investment, it is worth every penny spent. If the efforts are put to the progression of the business steadily, by tolerating the losses, then vertical farming will one day become the future of today’s agriculture with high yields of daily food supply lasting for longer periods of time.
Authored by Rekha Harish Rao