With climate change and a focus on more sustainable forms of agriculture, the indoor farming business is gaining momentum around the world. Vertical farming, in particular, is experiencing quite the boom! It’s making the biggest splash of all in Dubai, where it’s expected to completely change how people view airport food.
Come December 2019, Dubai is going to be home to the world’s largest vertical farm. Construction on the $40 million joint venture between California-based Crop One Holdings and Emirates Flight Catering is set to begin next month (Nov 2018).
The 130,000 sq ft facility will be double the size of the current largest vertical farm in Newark, New Jersey, and will have the production output equivalent to 900 acres of farmland. It will be able to produce about 6,000 pounds (or 2,700 kg) of leafy greens a day. Like all vertical farming ventures, the greens will be grown in a soilless medium and nutrient solutions will help keep them nice and healthy.
Weather conditions won’t ever hinder the crops because a vertical farm is a controlled environment, meaning the temperature, humidity, and light levels are catered to the plant’s needs.
Everything grown inside will be herbicide and pesticide-free, and the facility is also projected to use 99% less water than outdoor fields. How’s that for environmentally-friendly? Continuing on that theme, its location will enable quick delivery of products within hours of harvest, maintaining its nutritional value and reducing delivery-related carbon emissions.
Just another excuse to visit Dubai…
The History Of Vertical Farming
Vertical farming may be becoming more extravagant, but the concept is actually nothing new. According to EnviroIngenuity, Indigenous people in South America have long used the technique. Rice terraces in East Asia follow a similar model.
The idea really took off after 1915, when American geologist Gilbert Ellis Bailey coined the term “vertical farming.” But it was Dr Dickson Despommier who gave life to the technique of growing food vertically in 1999, after looking for a way to solve a variety of environmental issues with his students.
While they first considered rooftop farming in Manhatten, they realized those gardens couldn’t possibly produce enough food to feed the city’s vast population.
Dr Despommier’s class then turned to New York’s empty high-rise buildings, calculating that a single 30-story vertical farm could feed 50,000 people. From there, they determined that 160 similar farms could feed the citizens of New York year-round.
Changing The Way We Eat
Along with the fact that the foods grown via vertical farming are free of GMOs and pesticides, the ability to grow 365 days a year no matter the climate makes the technique very appealing. With climate change and various seasonal swings, traditional farming practices continue to suffer crop loss.
Researchers at the University of Washington say that insect activity is expected to rise dramatically along with temperatures. That will result in worldwide losses of rice, corn and wheat by about 10-25% for each degree Celsius that global mean surface temperatures rise.
With the UN projecting the world’s population will reach 9 billion by 2050, crop loss cannot continue to happen. We need to find alternate sources to grow our food safely and much faster without continuing to stress agricultural land.
Vertical farming could be the answer.
Other Vertical Ventures
While the farm plans in Dubai might be the biggest, there are so many other impressive vertical ventures that are either in the planning stages or already operating.
In Las Vegas, NV., for example, world-class restaurants are serving up fresh, nutritious plates with non-GMO and pesticide-free produce grown in a massive vertical farm run by Oasis Biotech.
The facility grows a wide variety of delicious lettuces, microgreens, herbs and more, while also recycling 100% of unused water and nutrient consumption. The project is pretty timely considering the number of vegan restaurants in Las Vegas has jumped 200% since 2016!
The farm is also reducing Sin City’s carbon footprint significantly. According to the Business Insider, in 2014, the Las Vegas Sustainability Atlas found 92% of the city’s food was delivered by truck, while just 8% was grown locally. With 1,500 pounds of fresh produce being harvested every day at the Oasis farm, fewer food delivery trucks are rolling into the city now.
The world’s current largest vertical farm in Newark, New Jersey, is about 70,000 sq ft and produces 2 million pounds of produce a year. AeroFarms made use of an old steel mill for tits gardens; no need to develop any new land for food production!
And in Hamilton, Ohio, the food retail scene is about to get a major facelift with the addition of the first fully-automated vertical farm in the US.
80 Acres Farms says the first phase of the project is expected to be completed later this year and will feature state-of-the-art grow centres to produce speciality greens such as kale, microgreens, culinary herbs, and leafy greens.
The facility will feature robotics, artificial intelligence, data analytics, and monitoring sensors and control systems that will be on guard 24/7. It will be next-generation growing at its best, with the site being fully-automated at every stage, from seed to grow to harvest.
Vertical farming… taking “supersize” to a new and much healthier meaning where food is concerned.