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Vertical Farming -Agriculture of the Future

Authors:
Indian Farmer 7(11): 1013-1017; November-2020 Rameshkumar et al
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Vertical Farming - Agriculture
of the Future
D. Rameshkumar*, N. Jagathjothi, S. Easwari, R. Rajesh, R.
Muthuselvi, P. Naveen Kumar,
B. Krishnakumare, R. Minithra and R. Suresh
*Corresponding author: rameshhorts@gmail.com
INTRODUCTION
In 1915, Gilbert Ellis Bailey coined the term “Vertical farming” and wrote a book titled
“Vertical Farming”. In the early 1930s, William Frederick Gerick pioneered hydroponics
at the University of California at Berkley. In the 1980s, Ake Olsson a Swedish ecological
farmers, invented a spiral-shaped rail system for growing plants and suggested vertical
farming as a means for producing vegetables in cities. Using advanced greenhouse
technology such as hydroponics and aeroponics, the vertical farm could theoretically
produce fish, poultry, fruit and vegetables (Despommier, 2010). His concept was to
grow the food in urban areas itself utilizing less distance and saving the time in bringing
the food produced in rural areas to the cities. He intended in growing food within urban
environments and thus have fresher foods available faster and at lower costs.
Why vertical farming?
Vertical farming could enable food production in an efficient and sustainable manner,
save water and energy, enhance the economy, reduce pollution, provide new
employment opportunities, restore ecosystems, and provide access to healthy food. In a
controlled environment, crops will be less subject to the infestation, the nutrient cycle,
crop rotation, polluted water runoff, pesticides and dust (Touliatos et al., 2016).
Vertical farms also utilize advanced technologies and intensive farming methods
that can exponentially increase production. Researchers have been optimizing indoor
farming by calibrating, tuning and adjusting a wide-range of variables including light
intensity, light color, space temperature, crop and root, CO2 contents, soil, water, and air
humidity (Padmavathy et al., 2016). In addition, vertical farming provides an
opportunity to support the local economy. Abandoned urban buildings can be converted
into vertical farms to provide healthy food in neighborhoods where fresh produce is
scarce.
World Scenario
Vertical farming involves growing crops vertically in controlled atmosphere using
technology like LED lighting, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems,
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sensors and smart software, Internet of Things (IOT), drones, mobile apps to maintain
total control over the environment. Food crops can be cultivated easily in urban areas
by planting in vertically stacked layers in order to save space and use minimal energy
and water for irrigation. Sparks and Stwalley, 2018 tested the Nutrient film technique
hydroponics system was by growing lettuce plants and monitoring energy use
throughout the growth period..
Various experiments are being done about vertical farming all over world. It has
already been introduced in the US and Europe, Spain, Japan and Singapore. Several
tech-enabled vertical farms like Aerofarms and Green Sense in the USA, Delicious in The
Netherlands, Sharp’s strawberry farm in Dubai, Spread, Toshiba and over 100-plus
vertical farms in Japan, Packet Greens of Singapore, the EU funded INFARM in Berlin are
proven examples of successful vertical farming. INFARM is now operating more than 50
farms across Berlin in supermarket aisles, restaurant kitchens and distribution
warehouses. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) researchers
have seen hydroponics as a suitable method for growing food in outer space. They have
been successful in producing vegetables such as onions, lettuce, and radishes. In
Columbia, Association for Vertical Farming is working on its sustainability.
Categories of vertical farming systems
Vertical Farming systems can be broadly divided into two categories those
comprising multiple levels of traditional horizontal growing platforms and grown on a
vertical surface. Horizontal growing system are stacked horizontal systems and multi-
floor towers, Balconies. Vertical growth surfaces are green walls and cylindrical growth
units.
General Structure of Vertical Farming
The vertical farm is planned to be totally using artificial light or both artificial
and natural light should be taken into account. The same issues need to be considered in
designing the facility. There are two options available LED (light emitting diode) or HPS
(high-pressure sodium). When choosing the crops to grow considering which plants can
be better bred indoors. Because of limitations imposed by height, plants that grow on
trees such as bananas, olives, avocados, and nuts are hard to grow inside. But, there is
another chance to grow tree crops and that is to grow them in an outer area as much as
there is space provided. This way, more than three dozen types of vegetables can be
chosen to grow inside the building hydroponically (Ankri, 2010). The most common
products now produced in vertical farms are lettuce, tomato, chinese cabbage, eggplant,
green onion/chives, kale spinach and cucumber.
SYSTEMS OF VERTICAL FARMING
1. Hydroponics
“Hydroponics” is the growing of plants in a liquid nutrient solution with or
without the use of artificial media. Commonly used mediums include expanded clay,
coir, perlite, vermiculite, brick shards, polystyrene packing peanuts and wood fiber.
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Hydroponics has been recognized as a viable method of producing vegetables
(tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers and peppers) as well as ornamental crops such as herbs,
roses, freesia and foliage plants.
The predominant growing system used in vertical farms, hydroponics involves
growing plants in nutrient solutions that are free of soil. The plant roots are submerged
in the nutrient solution, which is frequently monitored and circulated for maintaining
correct chemical composition. This method results in more uniform and better yields
the optimum combination of nutrients can be provided to all plants. It also provides less
labour intensive way to manage larger areas of production. It is a cleaner process that
no animal excreta are used. Easier way to control nutrient level and pH balance. In 1950
commercial farms are started at America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Japan most successfully
practiced in Israel.
Liquid systems have no supporting medium for the plant roots; whereas,
aggregate systems have a solid medium of support. Hydroponic systems are further
categorized as open (once the nutrient solution is delivered to the plant roots, it is not
reused) or closed (surplus solution is recovered, replenished, and recycled).
Liquid Hydroponic / Nutrient Film Technique
Plants are placed in a polyethylene tube that has slits cut in the plastic for the
roots to be inserted. Nutrient solution is pumped through this tube.
Floating Hydroponics
Plants are grown on a floating raft of expanded plastic.
Aggregate Hydroponics
Rockwool Culture: It is the most widely used medium in hydroponics. Rockwool
is ground-up basalt rock that is heated then spun into threads making wool. It is very
light and is often sold in cubes. Rockwool can hold water and retain sufficient air space
(at least 18 percent) to promote optimum root growth. Plants are established on small
rockwool slabs positioned in channels containing recycled nutrient solution.
These system are further categorized into two:
Passive systems use a wick and growing media with very high capillary action.
This allows water to be drawn to the plant roots. The Wick System is by far the
simplest type of hydroponic system
Active systems work by actively passing a nutrient solution over your plants
roots.
2. Aeroponics
The Aeroponic System is probably the most high-tech type of hydroponic
gardening. A timer controls the nutrient pump. The aeroponic system needs a short
cycle timer that runs the pump for a few seconds every couple of minutes. In
aeroponics, there is no growing medium and hence, no containers for growing crops. In
this system, mist or nutrient solutions are used instead of water. As the plants are tied
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to a support and roots are sprayed with nutrient solution, it requires very less space,
very less water and no soil.
Advantages of vertical farming
The first and the major advantage of vertical farming is producing extremely high
yields per available land or area.
Producing the food throughout the year without the risk of vagaries of nature of
nature like floods, heavy rains, uneven rains, hail and snowfall, drought, dry
spells, extreme high temperatures, cold waves, epidemics of pest and diseases,
etc.
It reduces the cost over transporting loads of food grains from rural area to
urban areas and reduce the spoilage occurring there in. Fossil fuel consumption
in transporting the farm produce to cities from village places is also reduced to a
greater extent.
Vertical farming uses 70 to 95 % less water compared to traditional farming
90% less or no soil is needed in vertical farming and thereby no pest and disease
infestations.
Pesticide free or organic food is produced as there is no use of pesticides.
Disadvantages of vertical farming
Initial huge cost for establishing the vertical farming system is the major
problem. It will include the cost erecting the structures along with its automation
like computerized and monitoring systems, remote control systems,
programmable LED lighting systems, climate control system, etc.
Huge energy cost as growing plant is entirely with artificial lights. The excess
nutrients used in vertical farming may interfere and contaminate the main urban
water system if not taken care of.
LED lighting systems emit heat though small amount will create problem of
maintaining the temperatures especially in summer months and may overload
the air conditioning systems which will again incur high energy cost.
FEASIBILITY OF VERTICAL FARMING IN INDIA
India is one of the largest producer of vegetables, fruits and many other
agricultural commodities. In India, vertical farming has been introduced. ICAR experts
are working on the concept of ‘vertical farming’ in soil-less conditions, in which food
crops can be grown even on multi-storeyed buildings in metros like New Delhi, Mumbai,
Kolkata and Chennai without using soil or pesticides. Small-scale adaptations of vertical
farming have been seen in Nadia, West Bengal and in Punjab. Bidhan Chandra Krishi
Vishwa vidhalaya in Nadia has found initial success in growing brinjal and tomato.
Punjab also has succeeded in producing potato tubers through vertical farming
(Kalantari et al., 2018).
FUTURE THRUST
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If vertical farms were integrated in the city, they will be able to supply food for
the entire population.
There is a need for research that accurately assesses the Return of Investment
(ROI) of various types and sizes of vertical farms.
There is a need to investigate the full life-cycle analysis (LCA) and the number
of years to reach parity with a traditional farm
Researchers should invent, advance, and further develop local farming
techniques to make vertical farm projects feasible in these countries.
For example, they may invent recycling methods that reduce reliance on water,
design local systems by capturing rainwater, and may capitalize on local solar
power for providing natural light and energy (Kalantari et al., 2015).
CONCLUSION
Vertical farming is a best alternative for the city dewellers. It can deliver food in
sustainable ways to improve global food security and solve the environment
degradation problems. No harvest would fail by severe weather phenomenon. It has the
benefit for easily minimise the cooling and heating water by indoor temperature. It
helps to reduce poverty, increase food safety and well being of human. Effectiveness of
vertical gardening depends on the demand and supply of food, urban population and
densities, technological development, water and energy supply and weather conditions.
REFERENCES
Ankri, D.S. 2010. Urban Kibbutz: Integrating Vertical Farming and Collective Living in
Jerusalem, Israel, (Master’s Thesis). Available from ProQuest Dissertations and
Thesis database. (UMI No.1482437).
Despommier, D. 2010. The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st Century;
Thomas Dunne Books: New York, NY, USA.
Kalantari, F., O. Mohd Tahir, N. Golkar, and N.A. Ismail. 2015. Socio-Cultural
Development of Tajan Riverfront, Sari, Iran. Adv. Environ. Biol. 2015, 9: pp.
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Kalantari, F., O.M. Tahir, R.A. Joni, and N.A. Aminuldin. 2018. The importance of the
public acceptance theory in determining the success of the vertical farming
projects. Management Research and Practice, 10(1): pp. 5-16.
Padmavathy, A. and G. Poyyamoli. 2016. Enumeration of arthropods in context to Plant
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Sparks, R. E. and R. M. Stwalley. 2018. Design and testing of a modified hydroponic
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Touliatos, D., I.C Dodd and M. Ainsh. 2016. Vertical farming increases lettuce yield per
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... The biggest threat to VF is scepticism from business and academia (e.g. Richard, 2005;Alter, 2010), and it is not entirely unfounded. Till date no project has practically demonstrated the viability of a VF at this scale, most exist in small research initiatives or as concept drawings by architects. ...
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Urban Kibbutz: Integrating Vertical Farming and Collective Living in Jerusalem, Israel
  • D S Ankri
Ankri, D.S. 2010. Urban Kibbutz: Integrating Vertical Farming and Collective Living in Jerusalem, Israel, (Master's Thesis). Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Thesis database. (UMI No.1482437).
The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st Century
  • D Despommier
Despommier, D. 2010. The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st Century;
Vertical farming increases lettuce yield per unit area compared to conventional horizontal hydroponics
  • D Touliatos
  • I Dodd
  • M Ainsh
Touliatos, D., I.C Dodd and M. Ainsh. 2016. Vertical farming increases lettuce yield per unit area compared to conventional horizontal hydroponics. Food Energy Security. 5: pp.184-191.