Who isn’t concerned about climate change and the future of the planet? Individuals and business must take steps to support the health of the planet. There are many approaches to doing this. One way is to improve agricultural practices and adopt more sustainable farming practices. One such environmentally friendly strategy is to use vertical farming. How does vertical farming help the environment?
What is Vertical Farming?
Vertical farming is a way to grow crops in skyscrapers, warehouses, and other indoor spaces by using vertical stacks of trays or shelf units. This means that vertical farms can be in urban areas, where land is expensive and water supplies can be limited.
Vertical farming uses hydroponic gardening techniques, techniques that don’t require soil. Under these controlled conditions, farmers can grow a wider variety of crops than they could outdoors because of controlled growing conditions.
How does vertical farming help the environment? This type of farming is beneficial to the environment in several ways. Let’s look more closely at vertical farms, how they work and why they're environmentally friendly.
Vertical Farming Conserves Water
Water is essential to life, and so every drop counts. Vertical farming uses less water and land than traditional farming, while producing higher yields per square foot. That’s significant since up to 90% of the water used in the United States is consumed through agriculture. Plus, water conservation is a necessity in many parts of the world, especially during times of drought.
How does vertical farming reduce water usage? One way is by reducing water loss through evaporation. Vertical farming takes place in a closed environment. Therefore, even when water evaporates, it isn’t lost and can re-enter the system. This doesn’t happen in an open system, like a field. Plus, vertical farming recycles water to further conserve it.
By growing crops indoors, farmers can conserve water by relying on recycled water and hydroponic systems that don’t require soil or sunlight for growth. Plants can absorb water more efficiently via hydroponic gardening methods, creating less need for water.
Plus, the water used in vertical farming is cleaner than the water used in traditional fields. This is because it isn't contaminated by pesticides or fertilizers that get washed off into nearby rivers and streams when it rains.
Vertical Farming Requires Fewer Pesticides
Vertical farming reduces the need for pesticides and fertilizers by growing crops in controlled environments with a minimal amount of water. With no soil to worry about, farmers can use natural fertilizers like manure and composted waste instead of artificial chemicals like pesticides to kill pests that damage the crops.
Plus, in a controlled environment, there's no need to spray harmful pesticides on crops since these plants never encounter insects or animals that could damage them.
The lack of pesticide use is better for the environment since certain types of pesticides (persistent organic pollutants) don’t break down and persist in the environment for years. They also enter groundwater and even the atmosphere by evaporation. From there, rainfall can deliver them to other areas.
Plus, living systems, including humans and animals, can accumulate small quantities of these pesticides, some of which are harmful to health.
Fewer Carbon Emissions
Vertical farms can be built in urban areas where land is scarce and expensive, reducing transportation costs and carbon emissions associated with transporting food long distances. Vertical farming doesn’t require farm equipment or transportation to get the crop from field to market. This reduces carbon emissions and air pollution.
Vertical farming also conserves energy resources. This means fewer resources are required to produce the same amount of food, which means less pollution as well as a smaller carbon footprint for each kilogram produced!
Conclusion: How Does Vertical Farming Help the Environment?
As urbanization increases, so does the demand for locally grown food. Vertical farms are capable of producing more food in less space than traditional farms, and they reduce carbon emissions by using less energy.
Along with the environmental benefits mentioned here, vertical farms also have economic and social benefits for local communities. While there are some challenges associated with vertical farming, this approach to farming has the potential to make a difference in environmental and planetary health.
- Jain R. Vertical Gardening: A New Concept of Modern Era. ResearchGate. Published 2016. Accessed June 9, 2022. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/295646943_Vertical_Gardening_A_New_Concept_of_Modern_Era
- "Pesticides and the Environment | MU Extension." https://extension.missouri.edu/publications/g7520.
- "USDA ERS - Irrigation & Water Use." 06 May. 2022, https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/farm-practices-management/irrigation-water-use/.
- "Irrigation and Water Management | NRCS - USDA." https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/national/organic/?cid=NRCSEPRD1367235.