Vertical Farming Taking Off

As more and more American and international farmers worry about the implications of global climate change and the need for sustainable agricultural futures, some scientists and ag experts are exploring urban farming and vertical farming as potential ways forward.

Urban farming, which has existed in some form since the birth of agriculture, has long been a major part of American history. From Americans growing produce in their Victory Gardens during WWII to modern urban farm corporations that transform abandoned city lots into miniature farms, the United States has long experimented with blurring the boundary between urban and agricultural.

The growth of urban farming operations has spread like wildfire, offering economically depressed cities a chance to revitalized abandoned downtown centers and offering solutions to major unemployment.

Vertical farming, however, is a relatively new phenomenon. Rather than repurposing empty lots, vertical farm proponents take abandoned buildings and skyscrapers and transform them into towering farms. Some farms use skyscraper’s windows to maximize available light, growing plants on suspended rafts. Others have experimented with suspending plant roots and applying nutrients directly or with hydroponics, bypassing the need for soil.

Vertical farm proponents believe that this technique could eventually grow up to half of the Earth’s food. According to one Columbia University professor, “A significant portion of farmland could be abandoned. Ecosystem functions would rapidly improve, and the rate of global warming would slow down.”

While the technology to make vertical farming a sustainable option does not yet exist, supporters hope that agricultural scientists will continue experimenting with the technique.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer