Vertical farming is the practice of growing crops in vertical and stacked layers. Vertical farming is a new type of farming that aims to make use of perpendicular space to improve growing efficiency. It usually takes place in controlled environments and can make use of modern farming techniques such as hydroponics, aquaponics, and aeroponics. Vertical farming often incorporates the use of LED lighting systems that mimic the light from the sun.
Hydroponics is the growing of plants without using any soil. The only things that plants need are water, sunlight, nutrients and oxygen.
In traditional farming, plants receive their nutrients from the soil. With hydroponics, nutrients are fed to the plants through the water. The nutrient levels can be customized depending on the needs of an individual plant. Controlling the nutrient levels of the plants optimizes plant growth and allows plants to reach maturity faster. Customizing the nutrient levels also minimizes the risks for the plants because the plants are guaranteed to receive their nutrients. In traditional farming, a plant may never reach maturity because the soil was lacking nutrients.
In addition, arable land looses nutrients in the soil over time. Hydroponics can work around this issue by ensuring that each plants receives the nutrients that it needs during plant growth.
Academics has also concluded that nutrient levels in hydroponics crops contain, on average, similar levels to that of traditional farming (New York Times, 2016).
Another factor that contributes to the level of nutrients within plants is the time that passes from when the plant is harvested to when it is consumed. A plant contains the most nutrients on the day that it was harvested. In most cases, the lettuce sold at Wellington Greens is given to our customers within a day of harvest. The majority of the lettuce at the grocery store has been on a truck for a few days, making it less nutritious.
Advantages to Vertical and Hydroponic Farming
The main advantages of hydroponic and vertical farming are that plants benefit from being in a controlled environment that mitigates risks, uses energy efficiently and maximizes space for growing.
Within traditional farming, one of the main challenges is that plants are always competing against growing conditions and pests. Weather patterns are becoming more difficult to anticipate as climate change continues to create extreme weather events. These weather events have the ability to destroy entire crops. However, vertical and hydroponic farming almost always takes place inside, thereby mitigating the risk of crop failure from extreme weather events. Additionally, outdoor farming also faces risks from different types of pests. As a result, farmers often have to rely on pesticides to ensure that their crops are pest resistant. For the most part, indoor vertical farming eliminates the risk of pests coming into the farm and destroying the crops. Although this is still possible, indoor farming decreases this risk.
Another advantage that indoor farming has over traditional farming is the efficient use of water. Across the industry, most hydroponics systems use about 95% less water than traditional farming methods. In a controlled environment, less water is lost to evaporation. Additionally, the hydroponic watering system can directly target the roots of the plants.
Vertical farms are much more efficient at using space compared to traditional farming. This is important because the world’s population is expected to be 10 billion by 2050. On earth, 71% of the surface is covered by oceans and 29% is land. Out of the 29% of land, 71% of this is considered to be habitable. 50% of the habitable land is currently being used for agriculture. Humanity is using half of the habitable land for food production. With an increasing population, new farming techniques are needed to account for a growing population. Vertical farms allows for the implementation of urban farms that maximize space within a city. Moving forward, urban areas will be able to grow their own food and they will be less reliant on imported food from around the world.
Farming Techniques At Wellington Greens
At Wellington Greens, we grow our produce through a vertical and hydroponic shipping container farm. Inside the farm, there are numerous wall panels where the plants are inserted. At the top of the panel, water drips down and each plant along that row absorbs some of the water. Across from the plants, is a wall of LED lights that simulate the light of the sun. With this technology, we are able to grow around the clock because we can have the lights on during the day and night. Within our farm, we do not use any pesticides or herbicides. Additionally, because our produce is not grown in the ground, you do not need to worry about E. Coli bacteria on the lettuce.