Sure, the Sky is the Limit in Vertical Farming…
But are we trading today’s present opportunities for tomorrow’s preposterous hypotheses?
You’ve probably noticed, “Vertical Farming” is all the rage these days… And for good reason!
(Check out last Thursday’s article in The Guardian.)
But, I can’t help but wonder if we missing the mark with these fantasy skyscraper farms?
Let me explain…
The Sci-Fi of Skyscraper Farms
While we encourage big, bold, ambitious ideas, the concept of skyscraper farming is flat out futuristic fiction.
Don’t read that wrong.
We’re very excited about…
- localizing food production,
- reducing the distance between farm and plate,
- increasing the nutrient density of our food,
- and retaining even more flavor in our favorite dishes.
We’re just not sure “skyscraper vertical farms” are the current method that will make this food vision a reality.
“Vertical Farms” are just farming vertically
If you look at any conceptualization of the “vertical farm of the future”, you’ll see it’s merely the same old limited horizontal methods that have been practiced for years. The only difference is how these models stack rows of crops on top of each other; a method that varies drastically from true vertically-oriented farming as with ZipGrow applications. (Read more about vertical farming vs. farming vertically here)
Such traditional horizontal practices merely stacked on top of one another are contrasted with endless [and costly] sets of challenges and constraints.
The most daunting threat to these theoretical farms is the sky-high cost of infrastructure.
Infrastructure Costs: The Greatest Threat
When considering the level of infrastructure investment it would take to build, let alone artificially light a “skyscraper farm” (remember: light is a fairly important part of a plant’s growth cycle…), the cost of the produce passed on to consumers would be so astronomically high that no one would be able to afford even a few leaves of lettuce.
Even if this production method were heavily subsidized, the cost of the produce would still have to be many times the cost of competing products, just to break even.
There are a variety of other reasons why the “skyscraper farm” is pure fantasy and you can read those in our original blog post here.
Vertical Farming Growing in Popularity
(And We Couldn’t Be More Excited!)
These “vertical skyscraper farms” that the mainstream media (see: those without any farming experience) loves to write about are science fiction at best.
And, while it’s exciting to think about farming in the sci-fi realm, we’re more excited about the modern day vertical farmers growing more food with fewer resources for their local communities TODAY. We interact with them all the time. They’re our customers, our advocates and our friends.
Let’s Get Excited About It
In sum, I think we can agree that vertical farming is something we can all get excited about, and with good reason.
I mean, who doesn’t think the idea of a living skyscraper would be awesome!?
When we step back into our present reality, however, with our present economic conditions and current energy constraints, we can also agree that there is just no feasible way it can pay for itself.
Wait, Wait…Hear Me Out
I know it’s easy to dub me as a pessimist or even a heretic of the technological food future, but before you do, let me ask you one closing question:
Even though we all agree living buildings are incredibly fascinating concepts, should we pass up present opportunities to grow vertically in practical, space-saving, energy-reducing, cost-cutting and value-adding means of vertical farming?
Everyday I get to interact with innovative, passionate growers who are stepping forward as leaders (fountainheads, maybe?) in this flourishing new industry AND everyday my outlook toward the future food system gets a little brighter.
If I have one goal in writing this, it is to encourage us all to NOT just sit there hoping someone does something about how we grow, transport and consume food.
Instead, I sincerely hope that we’ll continue to think big for the future but continue to cultivate and grow our present circumstances in the realm of sustainable agriculture.
We think vertical farming is part of the broader food future and we’re putting everything we’ve got into outfitting those who feel the same with high quality equipment and intellectual resources, namely this blog and our YouTube channel.
We’re hoping to be advocates for beautiful things to come, adding value along the way.
What Do You Think?
Now that you’ve learned more about our vision of the future, how does this affect what the future of food looks like to you?
If you’re a grower, what are you personally doing to move the food system in a more sustainable direction?
Who are you growing for?
What makes you most excited about your own vision of the food future?
We would LOVE to hear your thoughts in the comments below.