Modern agriculture is unsustainable – that point has become crystal clear over the last few decades. The question remains though – what do we do about it?
For many years the debate between supporters of conventional farming and organic farming has been played out again and again. Conventional farmers saying in order to feed the world’s population, we must aggressively use pesticides in order to increase crop yields (even though that hasn’t worked). And organic farmers saying we must not use pesticides and artificial fertilizers but instead we must learn how to build up the soil to increase nutrient content and production naturally, without any environmental side effects.
Yet, both sides still run into one fundamental flaw of logic – there is only so much arable land on Earth. And much of that has already been used. Furthermore, whether your growing conventionally or organically, destroying natural forests, rain forests, prairies, wetlands, and crucial ecosystems in order to farm is a win-lose proposition – and sooner or later we will reach our limits.
But what if there was a third way? What if there was a better way? What if there was a way we could grow even more food using less precious resources – less water, less space, less transportation, and less phosphate (a key nutrient for growing plants which scientists estimate we may only have another 100 years worth of remaining in the soil).
Vertical hydroponic farming is the third way. It provides dramatic improvements when compared to both organic and conventional farming in terms of food yields, water use, land use, and phosphate use.
Vertical farms are now popping up all over the world…
Home Town Farms
Slow Money Entrepreneur Dan Gibbs, founder of Home Town Farms, is building organic vertical farms in Southern California and with plans to expand rapidly. Dan believes that new vertical farming technologies can allow urban vertical farmers to produce high quality organic produce and sell it profitably at non-organic prices, benefiting the farmers, consumers, and the environment.
Kyoto, Japan Vertical Farm
There’s a vertical farm in Kyoto, Japan (www.Nuvege.com). The farm lies in a 4-story quanset hut using about 2800 square meters of space. The farm uses hydroponics, like almost all vertical farms, meaning they only use 10% as much water as typical farming in soil – a truly green solution. This farm is meant to be a prototype which the Japanese government hopes to roll out throughout the country to reduce the carbon footprint and protect food sustainability and security in Japan.
Den Bosch, Netherlands Vertical Farm
The PlantLab vertical farm (www.plantlab.nl/4.0) is located in Den Bosch, The Netherlands. The farm is still under construction but will be ready soon. Everything in the farm is grown with LED lighting, and they claim that their experiments, using a wide variety of LED fixtures, give a 3X increase in plant yield using precisely controlled frequencies of light in the visible red and blue spectrum. Unlike most vertical farms, this one will be doing 100% of their growing indoors, using no natural light source – oh, and the farm is 3 stories underground!
Manchester, England Vertical Farm
There’s another 5-story vertical farm in construction right now in Manchester, England. An old abandoned warehouse is being converted into the farm, and the owners plan to raise poultry in addition to growing fruits and vegetables.
Milwaukee Vertical Farm
Another 5-story farm is planned for Milwaukee, Wisconsin by Will Allen’s Growing Power organization, in collaboration with the Sweet Water Foundation (aquaponics components). The architect is Allen Washatko, the same architect that designed the Aldo Leopold Center and the International Crane Recovery Center.
Other Vertical Farms
More and more plans for building vertical farms are popping up every day. One in Jackson, Wyoming. The Plant, Chicago’s first vertical farm, plans to be net-zero energy and net-zero waste by 2015.
What About Home Owners?
One of the major problems with conventional farming as we know it is that it’s controlled by just a few very large corporations – meaning that the control of food and farming is incredibly centralized. The key to food sustainability AND food security is decentralization. This means we need more people taking control of food production – not just big businesses.
The technology for vertical hydroponic farming, until recently, was almost totally reserved for commercial purposes. It was expensive, hard to use, and took experts just to keep the systems running. But today, there are many viable options for even the smallest land-owner to use vertical farming to grow their own food – and bring back sustainability and food security to every family.
These Vertical Garden units cost around $500-$600 for a homeowner to order and install (Available Online). It used to cost thousands of dollars to install a similar system and that required buying all the components separately from various manufacturers and the expertise to understand how to put it all together. With these new technological advancements, it’s now become so easy that literally anyone can start a vertical garden – even if you’re in a wheelchair!
Will You Start A Vertical Garden?
We believe the future of food security, food stability, food safety, and food quality depends not on large-scale farming projects but on local landowners taking control of their food supply. Can you imagine the impact if just 1% of Americans (That’s over 3 Million People) planted their own vertical garden? Can you imagine urban centers being net exporters of produce instead of just importing?
With vertical gardens, we can make a difference!