Mother nature is all around us and exudes a certain warmth. Nature is personified in this way because it has always had a nurturing aspect to humans. Vertical farming is yet another way that humans are trying to manipulate nature, however, we might have the best interests at heart this time around.
What is Vertical Farming?
Vertical farming means to farm in layers, which are stacked vertically upwards. The goal of vertical farming is to produce crops in environments that are not the most hospitable for food. Vertical farming is done in a very sterile environment, in many cases it is safer than a traditional farm. Though vertical farming is considered an emerging technology, the best thing about it is that it can be used anywhere. Vertical farming can be made within neighborhoods, chill climates and even the rooftops of buildings. In Canada, vertical farming has the capacity to highly elevate food production and expand our agricultural options. We are a country that lives in winter for nearly half the year. If we have farming all year round, we could provide fresh crops for Canadians at any time.
What Growing Methods are Used?
Vertical agriculture is a process that is facilitated inside closed quarters. How do they do this? There are multiple different growing methods that vertical farmers use, the main ones being hydroponics, aquaponics and aeroponics.
Hydroponics is the process of growing produce without soil. Farmers are able to grow herbs, flowers, fruits and vegetables by substituting solutions rich in nutrients, water and air. As a result of this, produce has much faster growing periods, higher quality and better yields.
Aquaponics works hand in hand with hydroponics while adding some fish into the mix, the systems are connected to allow for higher yields. It is a symbiotic relationship, where the plants benefit from having natural fertilizer because of the nutrients in the water the fish are inhabiting. The fish also benefit by having purified water.
Much like hydroponics, aeroponics does not use soil as its medium. Instead, the plants hang in a mist environment where a nutrient solution is absorbed by the suspended roots. Most aeroponic systems use LED lights that mimic sunlight rays so that they can be grown inside for a higher production rate.
As with all new innovations, there are plausible pros and cons. However, it is your job to decide which side outweighs the other.
- Less space is required
When farming outdoors, yards of land are required to grow healthy crops. The soil must also be rich in nutrients for high yields. Vertical farming allows for a much higher production rate in a much smaller area. This is advantageous because vertical farms can be made virtually anywhere, including urban neighborhoods. There is a drastic decrease in water supply costs unlike in traditional farming.
- Preservation of resources
Reduced water usage is one of the major selling points for vertical farming. On a large scale, the growing methods talked about earlier can help people who experience water shortages. There is also a lot of towing, sowing and use of fertigation equipment in traditional farms that increase the amount of fossil fuels in the atmosphere, this is not a problem with vertical farming.
- Barely any pesticides
Indoor vertical farming exponentially increases the health of crops. Since it is done in a very controlled environment, pesticides are unnecessary to prevent insects and growth of fungus because of consistent humidity levels. This results in safer produce for Canadians.
A general pattern you will notice with these disadvantages is money. Money plays a big role in the mass adoption of technology.
- No pollination
Vertical farming is done indoors, as such there will be no pollination because of lack of insects, especially bees. As a result of this, pollination would have to be done manually which adds extensive amounts of labor costs.
- High Cost of Labor
As a result of many vertical farms residing in urban centers, labor costs can be quite high to keep all necessary technologies in shape. Costs are high because of skilled labor, although since mostly everything is automated, this could cause for less workers. On top of that, pollination would just add to the labor costs.
The financial aspect of vertical farms is still being determined. It continues to change as the technology improves and automation increases. It allows for increased efficiency and all around fewer costs. However, the high dependence for humidity, energy and temperature is cause for concern. The power aspect itself can become very costly very fast.
Solving Canada’s Shortage in Food Supply Chains?
Vertical farming is predictable, it’s as simple as that. It has the ability to multi-task and diligently handle LED lighting, temperature, humidity and irrigation for the highest efficiency. The annual use of water is less than five percent of what is used to water in a greenhouses and the best part is, there is a 99.5% chance of high yields and farmers have the capability to gauge how much produce they will receive. Many of Canada’s vital transports have been scrutinized, as a result of climate changes and the fallout in British Columbia involving their farmers and transport highways. There was an estimated almost half a billion lost in yield for the country. Because vertical farming is so consistent, the grocery world wants to get in on the action as quickly as they can. Canada cannot be dependent on imported produce any longer, we could be at risk if our food supply during the winter months refuses to give us produce. Who will feed Canada if that happens?
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Blog Image Credit: Pexels.com
Written By: Maaya Chander