Vertical farming is a revolutionary form of agriculture. As its name suggests, it's a form of agriculture that is specifically designed to facilitate agricultural production inside vertical structures. These farms can be created inside old warehouses, used shipping containers, greenhouses, or other buildings, saving space and energy.
As a more sustainable method of farming, vertical farming tends to require much less energy than regular farming which is estimated to be 95% less water since the used water in farming can be recycled and reused.
With over the equivalent of about 74 acres (30 ha) of operational vertical farmland in the world, there are many vertical farming companies and startups around the globe. You might remember our previous coverage about a vertical farm that's run by Artificial Intelligence that produces 400 times more food per acre than a flat farm in a bid to solve our land crises.
Fresh and local food that's grown with less energy
80 Acres Farms, a vertical farming startup based in Cincinnati, is another revolutionary in its field that promises local and fresh produce to its customers every day. At 80 Acres Farms, robots do the heavy lifting which leaves focusing on growing fresh food for humans. Meanwhile, the whole farming process is monitored and controlled by AI at all times.
The founders of 80 Acres Farms, Tisha Livingston and Mike Zelkind kicked off their business in 2015 with a single vertical farm in a small facility that could produce 80 acres worth of fruits and vegetables, hence the startup's name. Since the crops grow without soil, rain, or sunlight, 80 Acres Farms' farms use 97% less water compared to traditional farming. What's more, 80 Acres Farms doesn’t use pesticides or GMOs, and their farms run entirely on renewable energy.
What's unique about 80 Acres Farms is the fact that they only ship their produce within 50 to 100 miles (80 to 160 km) of their farms to prevent food waste. According to Popular Science's 2019 report, 40% of the food we grow in the United States either rots in the field, gets lost in transit, or simply is just not eaten. This adds more to our growing global food waste problem.
Running eight farms, the startup has recently partnered with United States retailer Kroger, a fellow Cincinnatian, in a bid to reach more people with more than 300 Kroger supermarkets in Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky. By keeping their sales limited, the startup believes that locally grown, locally distributed food can help eliminate food waste across the country. “growing our audience without growing our carbon footprint,” as Mike Zelkind puts it in an interview with Fast Company.
For the time being, 80 Acres Farms' produce is local only to the Midwest, and it will remain so until the company opens new farms in the country. “If we built farms 10 times as big as our reference model, we still wouldn’t be making a dent in consumer demand for fresh food,” says Zelkind. “What we can do is build farms in every community, making local produce accessible year-round to everyone.”
Regarding their work, 80 Acres Farms simply says that they're inspired by the amount of food they can grow, not the amount of land they use to grow it. "Thanks to super-efficient vertical farming techniques, we produce a lot more in a much smaller space. About the equivalent of a farm with 80 acres of land, give or take. And the rest is history."