Vertical Farming Research

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Vertical Farming Research

Key Takeaways

  • The concept of vertical farming was first practiced over 2,500 years ago when The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were planted.
  • In 1999, Dr. Dickson Despommier, an environmental health sciences professor at Columbia University, and his students develop the concept of the modern vertical farm. Their goal was to establish an effective way to produce food for the population of New York by urban rooftop agriculture, and they settle on the idea of layers of crops being grown in each floor of a multi-story building.

Introduction

We have provided an overview of vertical farming which includes a brief history of vertical farming, how it works, the new technologies used, and the advantages and disadvantages of vertical farming.

History of Vertical Farming

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon
  • While vertical farming has shot in popularity during the last few decades, the concept dates back to over 2,500 years ago. The first recorded example of vertical farming is in the form of The Hanging Gardens of Babylon built by King Nebuchadnezzar in 600 BC, as a "gift for Queen Amytis, to serve as a beautiful reminder of her lush hilly homeland."
  • The Hanging Gardens stood at an impressive height of 20 meters and was irrigated using a chain pump that pumped water from the River Euphrates at the foot of the garden to a catchment on the top floor.
  • According to Vertical Farming Planet, "with their lands being dry, water from the Euphrates River was made accessible through their impressive engineering skills and ingenuity."
Chinampas — The Floating Gardens of Aztecs
Early Vertical Farming Literature
Vertical Farming in the 20th Century and Beyond
  • In 1909, Life Magazine published one of the earliest depicts of the modern vertical farm: "open-air layers of vertically stacked homes set in a farming landscape, all cultivating food for consumption."
  • In 1915, Gilbert Ellis Bailey, an American geologist publishes a book called Vertical Farming. In the book, he explores vertical farming as an underground farming concept where farmers could use explosives to farm deeper down and increase the total area available for cultivation.
  • In 1999, Dr. Dickson Despommier, an environmental health sciences professor at Columbia University, and his students develop the concept of the modern vertical farm. Their goal was to establish an effective way to produce food for the population of New York by urban rooftop agriculture, and they settle on the idea of layers of crops being grown in each floor of a multi-story building.
  • Despommier is widely regarded as the father of modern-day vertical farming.
  • From 2009 onward and with the development of modern technology like lighting, automation, and robotics, modern, practical, and successful vertical farms have sprouted up across the globe.

How Vertical Farming Works

  • Vertical farming is the concept/practice of growing food on vertically-inclined surfaces. Vertical farming involves the production of food using "vertically stacked layers commonly integrated into other structures like a skyscraper, shipping container or repurposed warehouse."
  • Vertical farms use Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) technology and indoor farming techniques to produce food in limited spaces. Vertical farms artificially control temperature, light, gases, humidity, and other factors needed for crop production to make indoor farming possible.
  • These farms have many similarities with greenhouses but their main goal is to maximize the limited space available to grow more crops.

Vertical Farming Types, Processes, and Technologies

  • The following are some of the vertical farming types:
    • Despommier Skyscrapers: according to Dr. Dickson Despommier, skyscrapers can be used to grow crops on vertically-stacked shelves where the internal environment can be controlled.
    • Mixed-use Skyscrapers: according to Ken Yeang, an architect, these skyscrapers can integrate traditional farming with vertical farming techniques where instead of growing crops in an internal controlled environment, the crops can be cultivated in natural sunlight on the top floors of office buildings that receive the most sunlight.
    • Stackable Shipping Containers: this method uses stackable shipping containers equipped with LED lighting, hydroponic components, climate control ventilation systems, and sensors in urban settings to grow crops.
  • The following are some vertical farming processes:
    • Hydroponics: the most dominant vertical farming process since the beginning of vertical farming, hydroponics is the practice of growing crops in nutrient solutions without soil. The plant roots are submerged in nutrient solutions contained in growth trays where they are constantly monitored.
    • Aeroponics: this system involves growing plants in the air with very little water or moisture. The plant roots are basically suspended in the air and are constantly nourished by misting the roots with nutrient solutions. Aeroponics is the most water-efficient system of vertical farming since it uses 90% less water than the most efficient hydroponics system.
    • Aquaponics: this process combines aquaculture and hydroponics in the same ecosystem. In this process, fish in the indoor ponds produce waste rich in nutrients for the plants in vertical farms and the plants purify the wastewater which is recycled into the fishponds.
    • Other modern vertical farming systems include Lokal, AeroFarms, Plantscapers, VertiCrop, Modular farms, Cubic farming systems, among others.
  • The following are some of the technologies used in vertical farms:

Advantages of Vertical Farming

Disadvantages of Vertical Farming

Research Strategy

We searched through vertical farming industry sources such as Vertical Farm Institute, Vertical Farming Planet, Vertical Farm, e.t.c, to provide the requested information. We also leveraged other third-party sources to corroborate our findings.

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