Many have wondered for years if vertical farming is really the answer to the shortage of food in the world. However strange the concept of vertical farming might seem to many startups, it is an ingenious method to produce food in environments where arable land is unavailable or rare at the most.
This method is especially handy for challenging environments such as deserts, mountainside towns, and cities where many diverse types of vegetables and fruits are grown using precision agriculture methods and skyscraper-like designs.
Vertical farming is a revolutionary and more sustainable method of agriculture than its counterpart as it lowers the requirement of water to up to 70% and also saves considerable space and soil. This innovation in the field of agriculture with sustainability as its motto is making more and more heads turn today with its eco-friendly methods and making the possibility of farming real in difficult environs.
Let us check out the top 13 vertical farming innovations that could end up in your plate in the near future!
1. Hydroponics – Growing Plants Without Soil
Hydroponics is a predominant system of growing that is used in vertical farming, and it is slowly but steadily, gaining importance. It involves around the growth of plants in solutions of nutrients that are essentially free of soil.
In this vertical farming innovation, the roots of the plants are submerged in a solution of nutrients. This is frequently circulated and monitored in order to ensure that there is the maintenance of the correct chemical composition in the nutrient solution.
2. Aeroponics – Growing Plants With No Soil and Very Little Water
The innovation of Aeroponics in the field of vertical farming was made by The National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA). This sustainable growing technique was invented by NASA in the 1990s when it was looking for efficient techniques to grow plants in space.
This technique was then coined Aeroponics and was defined as "growing plants in an air/mist environment with no soil and very little water." However, these systems are yet to rise from an anomaly in the world of vertical farming even though they continue to create interest.
It is undoubtedly the most efficient way in vertical farming as it uses a staggering 90% less amount of water than the most efficient hydroponics systems too. It has also been observed that the plants that are grown with the aeroponics system uptake more vitamins and minerals, thus making the plants potentially healthier and more nutritious.
3. Aquaponics – An Ecosystem that Promotes Plants and Fish Farming Together
An Aquaponics System is much like the Hydroponics System but is only better. It aims to combine the fish and plants in the same ecosystem. In this system, fish grow in indoor ponds and produce a nutrient-rich waste that further acts as a food source for the plants grown in vertical farms.
The plants, doing their part, purify and filter the wastewater that gets recycled directly to the fish ponds. Aquaponics is definitely used at a smaller scale than most vertical farming innovations.
However, it is still used by many commercial vertical farms that wish to produce just a few fast-growing crops instead of including the component of aquaponics. As a result, the production and economics issues are simplified and it also maximizes efficiency.
That said, this closed-cycle system might become more popular with the popularity of new standardized aquaponic systems.
4. Lokal – Serving Fresh Food Right Where It’s Grown
The Space10 innovation lab of IKEA came up with the idea of Lokal that uses a Hydroponic farming system. It also uses LEDs to have your kitchen garden in stackable trays.
According to the designers of Lokal, the greens grow three times faster in Lokal than traditional gardens. They are also testing another innovation wherein they will integrate sensors into the growing trays, which will help you check the status of the crops with the help of smartphones or Google Homes.
In the long run, they also want to use machine learning to collect and analyze data from the people using Lokal to assess the productivity. This innovation can really help people grow fresh food in their own local mini-farms.
5. AeroFarms – The Smart Vertical Farming Innovation
When it comes to indoor farming, AeroFarms are the commercial leaders in this field with their innovation of using the aeroponic system of farming that ensures predictable results of your harvest, less impact on the environment, faster harvesting period and superior quality of food. The technology helps growing greens without using any sun or soil.
Therefore, it is easier to control the results of the harvest. The vertical farming innovation makes use of smart light, smart aeroponics, smart nutrition, smart data, smart pest management, smart substrate and smart scaling.
AeroFarms aims to transform the whole system of agriculture by building and making farms that are environmentally responsible. They are building farms around the world to make sure there is a local production of food that is nutritious, safe, sustainable and delicious.
In short, they want to grow more crops in less space which can bring about a food revolution.
6. Plantscapers – A Building that Provides Food for its Occupants
A Swedish food tech company called Plantagon is coming up with a creative solution that would allow office spaces and buildings to help feed a large number of people. In order to use the innovative methods of vertical farming, Plantagon has bought the rights to a vertical greenhouse from an organic farmer named Åke Olsson who believes in using technical innovation to find effective farming solutions.
Olsson developed a rack transport system that gradually moves the planting boxes from the floor to the ceiling of a vertical greenhouse, thus requiring no artificial light.
These vertical greenhouses or plantscapers are integrated directly into the office buildings with the functionality of hydroponic farming. The building would be named the World Food Building with the aim of producing at least 550 tons of vegetables every year and is planned to be constructed in Linköping, Sweden.
This is an estimated amount of vegetables that can provide food for almost 5000 people. High-level automation will be employed for the maintenance and harvest of plants in order to keep the costs very low.
Moreover, everything starting with sunlight, temperature, and nutrition, as well as air quality, will be measured through autonomous and controlled systems.
To sum up, it is a great innovation that keeps in mind sustainability and the requirements of people by keeping the costs of transportation very low and also by saving high amounts of energy, emissions, and water. If the concept becomes a success, more countries like Singapore, Hong Kong, United States and others have plans to adopt it too.
7. VertiCrop – A Sustainable Farming Technique for Urban Areas
VertiCrop is a proprietary agriculture technique that has been deemed as one of the World’s Greatest Inventions by TIME Magazine in 2009. This patent-pending technology was designed and developed so that food could be grown naturally in the environment of bustling urban areas.
This proprietary method offers quite a paradigm shift in food production and sustainable farming methods. It provides up to twenty times the yield of your standard field crops and uses merely 8% of the water that is usually needed for soil farming.
The vertical farming innovation works on a suspended tray configuration that is unique in itself and moves on a conveyor system. VertiCrop offers optimal exposure to both artificial and natural light in addition to nutrients that are precisely measured for every plant.
It has been designed in a way that it can promote the healthy growth of crops in controlled and closed-loop environments. Furthermore, it entirely gets rid of the need for using harmful herbicides and pesticides and maximizes food value, nutrition and above all, taste.
8. Modular Farms – Produce Fresh Plants Virtually Anywhere in the World
The very exclusive and sustainable Modular Farm System is another great innovation in the world of vertical farming from the company called ModularFarms. It is an entirely indoor system of vertical farming that has the ability to produce healthy and fresh plants virtually in any climate and anywhere in the world.
If that doesn’t intrigue you enough, it is a custom-built design that is based on an urban farm idea. This modular farm scales according to need and has additional modules that are available for diverse purposes.
The Modular Farm System concentrates solely on farmer ROI and plant health. This system is the perfect pairing of container farms, and the tried & tested technology of vertical farming.
This balance between the two promotes an endless growth of fresh and locally produced plants. A highlight of this vertical farming innovation is that you can customize your system and extend its functionality according to your agriculture needs to accommodate any sized operation.
9. Cubic Farming Systems – The Next-Gen Sustainable Farming System
Cubic Farms, as its CEO Dave Dinesen points out in his TEDx Abbotsford speech, is the next generation of consistent, predictable and profitable farm productions. It works on the conveyor rotation method, automated nutrient delivery system and LED lighting.
The machines used for growing crops create an optimal environment for the greens. It also uses 1/26th the amount of water that is utilized in traditional agriculture, thus making it sustainable.
One would usually not associate these words with agriculture or growing. However, the patented Dutch Cubic Farming system entirely eliminates risks of common farming to standardize the outputs by controlling the inputs.
This, in turn, means a steady and more predictable income in addition to more consistency in the size, taste, and color of the produce. It also promises a longer shelf life and higher nutritional content for your greens.
10. ZipGrow – Vertical Farming for the Modern Farmers
The motto of ZipGrow is to ‘EDUCATE. EQUIP. EMPOWER.’ The ZipGrow team has come up with innovative farming solutions for the modern farmers who do not have the required tools and experience to scale or start a hydroponic farming business.
ZipGrow understands the challenges that are faced by the average farmers today in terms of suboptimal growing equipment, poor farming or poor understanding of what the market really wants. As a result, ZipGrow has built a multitude of services and products so that the deck can be stacked in their favor.
They have basically revolutionized the industry of vertical farming with system controls, vertical plane growing technology and high-tech workflow designs to help countless farmers globally.
11. Bowery – The Most Technologically-sophisticated Commercial Indoor Farm in the World
The indoor farming company, Bowery is developing a technologically advanced farming system that will be capable to yield 30 times more produce and grow more than 100 kinds of herbs and leafy greens. The system according to the company will control the entire growing process indoors without using pesticides through their technology system BoweryOS.
The technology will automatically generate ideal conditions for the plants while collecting the data as they grow. The data will help in providing the plants with the exact amount of light, nutrients or purified water.
In addition, the sophisticated analysis will further allow harvesting the crops at the right time when its flavor is at its best. The produce cultivated through Bowery’s system utilizes 95% less water compared to the traditional farming.
12. Skyfarm – A Wind-Powered Vertical Farming Tower
An architectural firm, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners from London demonstrated a concept called Skyfarm during the World Architectural Festival in 2014. The idea is to build a hyperboloid tower that makes use of different farming techniques including aquaponics and traditional soil-based planting methods to produce crops within high-density urban areas or at places where land availability is less.
The multi-story building uses bamboo to create a rigid circular frame while maximizes the sun exposure onto the farm. The tower supports both the growth of crops and fish together through a re-circulating system where the nutrients from fish water are fed to the crops while the plants provide filters for the fish to thrive.
The bottom of the tower is designed to have a large transparent tank consisting of freshwater for the farming of fishes like bass, tilapia, and barramundi. In the middle of the tower, the plants are grown through hydroponics using water.
Above this, the plants are grown through aeroponics using only water mists and no soil. The top of the tower consists of water tanks and turbines.
The tower is an example of a sustainable solution for growing produce with a short shelf life around the year with easy accessibility for the urban population.
13. Sky Greens – The World’s First Hydraulic Driven Vertical Farm
The Singapore-based company Sky Greens has developed a revolutionary vertical farming system which is also the world’s first low carbon, hydraulic driven farm. The vegetables are planted on shelves that keep on rotating throughout the day.
The plants at the bottom receive water, while the ones at the top get sunlight and the process continues. This approach minimizes the use of water, land, and energy over the conventional farming techniques.
In addition, the Sky Urban Vertical Farming System is capable of producing 10 times more yield compared to traditional farms. While the system is currently used to grow Asian vegetables, it can also be used to grow all kinds of fruits and veggies.
Vertical farming is definitely an attractive option for farmers these days as more and more industry experts embrace it and for a good reason. It promises a much more sustainable way of farming in addition to not just producing quality produce but also cutting down on costs and making agriculture more eco-friendly.
These innovations are bound to rise in popularity and revolutionize the face of vertical farming in the future!