Author – Ayantika Dey
We are all aware of the exponential increase in the global population and its grave outcomes. The time is not far when Earth would see a definite reduction in cultivable land and a spiraling food demand due to this land crisis.
Increasing urbanization is particularly evident among Indian cities, which face a massive influx of rural migrants seeking jobs and settling down in burgeoning urban sprawls. There is an urgent need to solve the double-edged problem of shrinking arable land and providing food to an ever-increasing population.
We are all familiar with rooftop kitchen gardens and greenhouses within apartments or multi-storeyed buildings. So why not take this a bit further to prevent a food crisis and make ample use of available sunlight?
Origins of vertical farming
In order to provide a solution to the growing urban-rural supply chain issue, an innovative concept called “Vertical Farming” was jointly conceived by an American microbiologist Dickson Despommier and a Malaysian architect Ken Yeang. Vertical farming is an ultra-modern way of urban agriculture that incorporates a climate-controlled environment and soilless farming techniques to optimize plant growth. It is nothing but crop farms stacked on top of each other inside a greenhouse instead of spanning out horizontally. These high-rises are often called “Farmscrapers”.
Vertical urban agriculture is essentially made up of growing all kinds of fruits, vegetables, and flowers in high-rise towers 20–30 stories tall that provide a temperature-controlled environment. Plants are fertilized with compost and irrigated with nutrient-rich water provided through soil-less conditions known as “Hydroponics”. This process eliminates the need for any pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
Evidently, vertical farming in India could be the simple yet effective and eco-friendly innovation for meeting the food requirements of the future generation. If designed properly, it may eliminate the need to create additional farmland and help create a cleaner environment. Without the use of chemicals for mass production the crops will be organic and even the loss of products due to harmful weather conditions can be prevented. Unlike traditional farming in non-tropical areas, indoor farming can produce crops year-round with an increased rate of productivity. Since the crops would be sold in the same infrastructure in which they are grown, there will not be any need to transport them between production points and the sales market, in turn resulting in less spoilage and cheaper costs.
Professional help in vertical farming
If you’re new to hydroponics and want to venture into this type of farming business, you can hire an expert with the help of an agriculture executive recruiting services. An executive with an extensive background in overseeing a hydroponic farm can lead your team in meeting your desired outcomes. In this way, you can easily attain your business goals, encouraging more partners, investors, and clients to patronize your farm.
The vertical farming method optimizes plant growth by utilizing soilless farming techniques like aeroponics, hydroponics, and aquaponics. This new farming technique reduces water consumption by 95%. Since vertical farming is carried out in a controlled climate, you can prevent diseases and pests. Hence, this innovative farming technique needs less farm pesticides.
The modern concept of indoor farming techniques lets you control environmental factors to an optimum level. These facilities use artificial light control, fertigation (applying fertilizer with irrigation water), and environmental control (air, humidity, temperature, etc.).
One of the challenges of vertical indoor farms is that they can be expensive because you need controlled-entry clean rooms and well-calibrated grow lights. The upfront cost for planting and harvesting machinery is steep. Moreover, you need to maintain the building to house your vertical farm. Machine learning, AI-based automation are costly as well.
While it seems like vertical farming is the ultimate solution to meet our future food requirements, there are downsides to this innovative method. The initial cost of setting up the infrastructure for vertical farming and the technology required behind it are huge. There are some downfalls since this system tries to compete against Mother Nature.
Mass-producing plants within hermetically sealed, artificial environments that have little to do with the outside world will be energy inefficient. Pollinators such as insects and other natural agents have no role in vertical farming, so this intricate activity has to be done manually, which again results in cost increase. However, if this innovative farming method becomes feasible, then it may rob the jobs of conventional farmers, in turn harming the agricultural economy!
The idea of vertical farming has been adopted mainly among developed nations such as Singapore, Japan, the US, etc. However, India is not far behind too, with serious experiments being conducted in agricultural institutions. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research is trying to implement this new technique to bring about a revolution in Indian agriculture. Small-scale adaptations of vertical farming have been seen in West Bengal and Punjab. Bidhan Chandra Krishi Vishwavidhalaya in Nadia has found initial success in growing brinjal and tomato. Punjab also has succeeded in producing potato tubers through vertical farming in India.
Clearly, some of India’s chronic problems like messy food supply, overuse of pesticides and unemployment can be solved to some extent. However, the huge cost of infrastructure for a large-scale farm is a major hurdle for implementing vertical farming in India to be the next big thing. Maybe, this novel idea could become feasible for Indian agriculture in the not so near future!