When we think of farming, we usually picture endless, green landscapes with giant tractors ploughing through the fields. But what if we could grow vegetables inside laboratory-like conditions all year round, reducing importation costs and water usage?
Traditional farming methods currently face an array of different challenges. Soil degradation and climate change are resulting in lower crop yield, drought, water shortages and lack of nutrients in the crops.
What Is Vertical Farming?
Vertical farming allows farmers and scientists to grow fruits and vegetables in controlled conditions. They use LED lights in the form of sunlight and stack crops on top of one another to use the space most efficiently.
Jones Food Company is the largest vertical farming company in the world. They have expanded across the UK and are partnered with Ocado through which most of their fruits and vegetables are sold.
James Lloyd-Jones, the CEO of Jones Foods company explains the many benefits of vertical farming.
Traditional farming has its peaks and troughs, whereas vertical farming allows producers to grow fruits and vegetables all year round, meaning we can keep our prices the same throughout the year. By growing fruits and vegetables inside, we avoid all the variables traditional farming faces, such as pests, extreme weather, soil degradation and water shortages.
We can control all these variables and produce 14 times more crops than traditional farming. Each year we can produce the same amount of yield, to the same standard, unlike traditional farming.”
There are also some other incredible advantages of vertical farming. Through solar panels, Jones Food Company can power the vertical farms mostly with renewable energy. They also capture and recycle rainwater, meaning they save money on water and reduce water usage.
Does vertical farming have a lower environmental impact than traditional farming?
The short answer is yes; it does have a lower impact. Vertical farming uses less land than traditional farming, meaning the farmer is cutting back on deforestation and biodiversity loss. Vertical farming cuts importation as the farms can be built anywhere in the world and can recreate a variety of different fruits and vegetables. Finally, vertical farming removes pesticides and fertilisers responsible for 70% of water pollution.
What Are The Disadvantages of Vertical Farming?
Whilst vertical farming has many benefits, there are, of course, some disadvantages. Firstly vertical farming is expensive. Currently, the cost of the technology needed to grow something like potatoes or carrots through vertical farming outweighs the profit that can be made from traditional farming methods. Therefore, farmers are unlikely to diversify. However, James (CEO of Jones Food Company) suggests that “the technology in vertical farming is constantly developing, and it won’t be long before the cost of equipment needed for vertical farming comes right down.”
Another considerable problem that vertical farming faces are a shortage of labourers. James explains that there are currently not enough young people wanting to work in vertical farming.
“There currently isn’t enough knowledge surrounding vertical farming, so young people are not pursuing careers in it. Traditional farmers pass on their knowledge to their sons and grandsons. But because vertical farming has only been around for ten or so years, people are unaware of the career opportunities within vertical farming.”
Will Vertical Farming Phase Out Traditional Farming Methods for growing crops?
I believe that vertical farming won’t take over from traditional farming methods, but rather it will complement it,” says James.
“Both methods of farming have a place in society. Vertical farming can help take the weight off traditional farming; at the same time, there can be ways of using traditional farming methods and still positively impacting the environment, such as regenerative farming.”
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