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Vertical Farming

Introduction


The plants are arranged in a tower-like arrangement in the physical layout. This reduces the amount of space needed to cultivate plants. Using both natural and artificial light, the plants are then kept in a perfect habitat for their optimal development. The third parameter is the growing medium for the plants. As a substitute for soil, aeroponic, hydroponic, or aquaponic growth mediums are employed.




Techniques of Vertical Farming


1. Hydroponics


It is a method of growing food in water using mineral nutrient solutions without soil.

When nutrients are dissolved in water, they can be flooded, misted, or immersed straight into the root system of the plant. Direct exposure to nutrient-rich water has been demonstrated to be a more effective and adaptable technique of growth than standard irrigation. When a plant is growing in soil, its roots are constantly looking for nutrients to keep the plant alive. When a plant's root system is immediately exposed to water and nutrition, the plant does not need to expend any energy in order to survive. The energy used by the roots to obtain food and water can be diverted to the plant's growth. This technique has the primary benefit of reducing soil-borne problems like insects, pests, and diseases.


2. Aeroponics


In the 1990s, NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, USA) was looking for a more effective method of growing plants in space, and aeroponics was born.


Unlike hydroponics, aeroponics does not use any growing media or containers to cultivate crops. This technique uses mist or nutrient solutions instead of water to grow plants. As the plants are tied to support and roots are sprayed with nutrient solution, it requires very less space, very less water and no soil.

3. Aquaponics


The term aquaponics is coined by combining two words: aquaculture, which refers to fish farming, and hydroponics—the technique of growing plants without soil, to create symbiotic relationships between the plants and the fish.


As the fish waste serves as a "fertigate" for hydroponic production beds, the symbiosis is realised. Bio-filters in hydroponic beds remove gases, acids, and chemicals from the water, including ammonia, nitrates, phosphates, and phosphates.


Additionally, the gravel beds provide habitats for nitrifying bacteria, which augment nutrient cycling and filter water. Consequently, the freshly cleansed water can be recirculated into the fish tanks.


Advantages of Vertical Farming


The advantages of vertical farming make it a viable technology for the future of agriculture. A small amount of land is needed, 80-90 per cent less water is used, the water is recycled and preserved, it is pesticide-free, and there is no true dependence on the weather in high-tech farms.


Using a vertical farm, urban farmers can grow food in the constraints of a metropolis. Locally grown food is always fresher than the refrigerated variety typically found in stores since it can be supplied fast. Reduction in transportation reduces the fossil fuel cost & resulting emissions and thus also reduce the spoilage in transportation.


Disadvantages


With that said, there are several downsides to vertical farming. In order to get the vertical farming system up and running, there is a significant upfront investment required. There are additional costs associated with the construction of structures such as computerised and monitoring systems, remote control systems, automated racking and stacking systems, programmable LED lighting systems, and climate control systems.


Aeroponic systems use electricity to push water through tiny misting devices. While they can be utilised in natural light in a greenhouse, they are more commonly used in conjunction with energy-intensive grow lights. However, solar power or other alternative energy sources can be used to overcome this disadvantage.


Conclusion


With a population of 1.27 billion people, India is currently the world's second-most populated country; however, the National Commission on Population (NCP) projects that India's population will expand by 25% by 2036. When combined with climate change, this makes securing the country's food security even more difficult. Despite the fact that India's agriculture is self-sufficient, the country is home to one-quarter of the world's hungry.


Horizontal farming in India is resource-intensive due to the overuse of water, fertilisers, and pesticides. Water use in vertical farming, for example, can be cut by 95%. This could be critical in a country where irrigation accounts for 84% of total available water.


According to the 2011 National Census, more than 377 million Indians (31.16 per cent) live in cities, and this figure is anticipated to rise. Vertical farms can produce fresh vegetables, herbs, and fruits all year in heavily populated cities like Delhi and Mumbai, reducing some of the stress of conventional agriculture.


Abandoned buildings and factories in the city can be converted into fully working vertical farms. Vertical farming may produce more in less space than conventional farming since a 30-story skyscraper can produce the equivalent of 2400 acres of horizontal farming. Vertical farms can also be created on ground that is otherwise unsuitable for agriculture.

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