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Ditch the Dirt!

Vertical-farmingWhen people think of farming there are a few necessary key components. Traditionally, when thinking of farming you think of nutrient rich ground to grow your crops, right? Now, take a step away from what we know as traditional and open your eyes to the innovative way of farming referred to as “vertical farming.” Although this is a new concept in our minds, the actual innovators, the Babylon’s, created it in 600 BC. Known as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were used as a romantic gesture from King Nebuchadnezzar II to his wife, Amytis, to remind her of the place in which she grew up, which had been surrounded by green lands.

What exactly is vertical farming? Why would we want to stray from traditional farming? With the ever growing population of the world, we need to find a way too not only have enough housing, but to enough food supply. With the estimated increase of 3,000,000,000 people by 2050, we need to find a more innovative way to utilize the land we have. This is where vertical farming plays a key role. Vertical farming is using a tall building, such as a skyscraper, to farm plants and animals. For example, it is estimated that an 18 story building has potential to feed 50,000 people. With these types of results, vertical farming could potentially be a huge asset to the ever growing population.

How is it done?

In vertical farming, there seem to be three main types of farming. Although there are different versions of each, the main three we see are hydroponics, aeroponics, and aquaponics. They all differ from each other yet carry out the same organic materials, and help to move farming in a new direction.

  • Hydroponics- This type of growing method uses a sterile medium to deliver the nutrient water directly to the root of the plant without using soil. Since that medium is not a source of nutrients in itself, you can use just about anything, but most commonly used items include: gravel, peat, vermiculite, coco, old rubber tires, and rock wool.
  • Aeroponics- This type of growing process is done in an air or a mist environment without using soil or a medium to help stimulate growth. Aeroponic growing is done by suspending the plant in a closed or semi-closed environment and spraying them with a mist of nutrients.
  • Aquaponics– In this growing process the combination of aquaculture (raising aquatic animals) and hydroponics (growing plants in water) permits both plant and animal to thrive off the help each provides. This process uses the natural fertilizer created by the animals by product to pump into the plant to stimulate their growth with natural nutrients. Then the filters clean water back into the fish tank to complete the process and start it over again. This method reduces water waste by 97% compared to traditional farming.

Why is it Trending?

With any innovation come a period of trail and error. Vertical farming is starting to trend now as technology has advanced to perfect what crops will need when grown in a indoor setting. Researchers are still in the process of making it so all crops can be better grown, due to things such as how to achieve indoor pollination. We probably will not see vertical farming boom until 2050. Like any good thing it takes time; the time we wait will be worth the growing list of benefits:

  • Year-round crops
  • Organically grown crops
  • Environmental Preservation
  • Little to no spoilage of product
  • Water conservation and recycling
  • Protection from unexpected changes in weather

Here are some sources for additional information about vertical farming:

Do you have any experiences with vertical farming?  We would love to hear from you.  Please add a comment below.

This post was written by Bianca Canestraro, who is currently a junior at The University of Toledo, studying Marketing and Electronic Commerce.  Bianca is currently interning in the Agribusiness Division at Westfield Insurance.