Vertical farming

Vertical farming is the practice of producing food and medicine in vertically stacked layers, vertically inclined surfaces and / or integrated in other structures (such as in a skyscraper, used warehouse, or shipping container). The modern ideas of vertical farming techniques and controlled-environment farming (CEA) technology, where all environmental factors can be controlled. These facilities use artificial control of light, environmental control (humidity, temperature, gases …) and fertigation . Some of the most common uses of greenhouses , where natural sunlight can be augmented with artificial lighting and metal reflectors. [1] [2] [3]


The term “vertical farming” was coined by Gilbert Ellis Bailey in 1915 in his book Vertical Farming . He wrote about farming with a background of life, his nutrient content and the view of plant life as “vertical” life forms. [4] Modern use of the term “vertical farming” usually refers to growing plants in layers, whether in a multistory skyscraper, used warehouse, or shipping container.

Mixed-use skyscrapers

Mixed-use skyscrapers were proposed and built by architect Ken Yeang . Yeang proposes that instead of hermetically sealed mass-produced agriculture, plant life should be cultivated within open air, mixed-use skyscrapers for climate control and consumption. This version of vertical farming is based on the concept of production and distribution. It thus requires less than an initial investment than Despommier’s “vertical farm”. However, neither Yeang nor the Despommier are the conceptual originators, nor is Yeang the inventor of vertical farming in skyscrapers.

Despommier’s skyscrapers

Ecologist Dickson Despommier argues that vertical farming is legitimate for environmental reasons. He claims that the cultivation of plant life will require less embodied energy and produce less pollution than some methods of producing plant life on natural landscapes. He moreover claims that natural landscapes are too toxic for natural, agricultural production, despite the ecological and environmental costs of extracting materials to build skyscrapers for the simple purpose of agricultural production. quote needed ]

Vertical farming according to Despommier thus discounts the value of natural landscape in exchange for the idea of ​​”skyscraper as spaceship.” citation needed ] Plant life is mass-produced within hermetically sealed, artificial environments that have little to do with the outside world. citation needed ] In that sense, they could be built anywhere regardless of the context. citation needed ] Although climate control, lighting, and other costs of maintenance have been posited as a stifling to fruition, advocates have argued that an important feature of future renewable energywind turbines, water capture systems, wind turbines, and some combination of the three. citation needed ] The vertical farm is designed to be sustainable. quote needed ]

Despommier’s concept of the vertical farm emerged in 1999 at Columbia University . It promotes the cultivation of plant life for commercial purposes in skyscrapers. [5]

Stackable shipping containers

Several companies-have Brought forth the concept of stacking recycled shipping containers in urban settings. Brighterside consulting HAS created a full off grid container system Freight Farms Produces a “leafy green machines” that is a full farm-to-table system outfitted with vertical hydroponics, LED lighting and intuitive climate controls built Within a 12 m × 2.4 m shipping container . [6] Podponics has built a large scale vertical farm in Atlanta consisting of over 100 stacked “growpods”. [7] A similar farm is currently under construction in Oman. [8] [9]


A commercial high-rise farm such as the ‘Vertical Farm’ has never been built; Extensive photographic documentation and several historical books on the subject of research is not diligently pursued. [10] New sources indicate that hydroponicum existed in Armenia prior to 1951. [11]

Proponents argue That, by Allowing traditional outdoor farms to revert to a natural state and Reducing the energy costs needed to transporting foods to Consumers, vertical farms Could Significantly Alleviate climate changeproduced by excess atmospheric carbon. Critics noted that the costs of the additional energy needed for artificial lighting, heating and other vertical farming operations would outweigh the benefit of the building’s proximity to the areas of consumption. [12] [13] However, a recent study published in the Journal of Agricultural Engineering and Biotechnology has inexpensive metal reflectors to supply sunlight to the plants. [2]

One of the earliest drawings was published in Life Magazine in 1909. [14] The reproduced drawings feature vertically stacked homesteads set amidst a farming landscape. This proposal can be seen in Rem Koolhaas’ Delirious New York. Koolhaas wrote that this 1909 theorem is ‘The Skyscraper as Utopian device for the production of unlimited numbers of virgin sites on a metropolitan location’ (1994, 82).

Vertical Farm project include Le Corbusier’s Real Estate-Villas (1922) and SITE’s Highrise of Homes (1972). [15] SITE’s Highrise of homes, is a near revival of the 1909 Life Magazine Theorem. [16] In fact, built examples of hydroponics are described in the canonical text of “The Glass House” by John Hix. Images of the vertical farms at the School of Gardeners in Langenlois, Austria, and the glass tower at the International Horticulture Exhibition Vienna (1964). [1]Although architectural precedents remain valuable, the process of making vertical farming possible can be traced back to horticultural history through the development of greenhouse and hydroponic technology. Early building types or Hydroponics were developed, integrating hydroponic technology into building systems. These horticultural building systems evolved from greenhouse technology, and paved the way for the modern concept of the vertical farm. The British Interplanetary Society was developed for hydroponicum for lunar conditions and other building prototypes were developed during the early days of space exploration. During this era of expansion and experimentation, the first Tower Hydroponic Units were developed in Armenia. [17]

The Armenian tower hydroponics are the first built examples of a vertical farm, and are documented in Sholto Douglas’ seminal text ‘ Hydroponics : The Bengal System’ first published in 1951 with data from the then East Pakistan , today’s Bangladesh , and the Indian state of West Bengal . [11] Contemporary notions of vertical farming are predicted by this early technology by more than 50 years. [18] Contemporary precursors that have been published, or built, are Ken Yeang’s Bioclimatic Skyscraper (Menara Mesiniaga, built 1992); MVRDV’s PigCity, 2000; MVRDV’s Meta City / Datatown (1998-2000); Pich-Aguilera’s Garden Towers (2001). [15]

Ken Yeang is one of the most widely known architects who has promoted the idea of ​​’mixed-use’ Bioclimatic Skyscraper, which combines living units and opportunities for food production. [19]

Early prototypes of vertical farms, or “Tower Hydroponicums” existed in Armenia prior to 1951 [20], and in the case of hydroponic and horticultural building systems research and technology research.

The latest version of this is Dickson Despommier’s “The Vertical Farm”.

Dickson Despommier , a professor of environmental health sciences and microbiology at Columbia University in New York City, modernized the idea of ​​vertical farming in 1999 with graduate students in a medical ecology class. Although much of Despommier’s suggestions have been challenged and strongly criticized from an environmental science and engineering point of view, the idea of ​​popularization in recent years has largely resulted from the assumption that food production can be transformed.

Despommier HAD Originally challenged His Class to feed the Entire population of Manhattan (About 2,000,000 people) using only 5 hectares (13 acres) of usable rooftop gardens . The class calculated, by using rooftop gardening methods, only 2 percent of the population would be fed. Unsatisfied with the results, Despommier made an off-the-cuff suggestion of growing plants indoors, vertically. The idea sparked the students’ interests and gained major momentum. By 2001 the first outline of a vertical farmer was introduced and today scientists, architects, and investors worldwide are working together to make the concept of vertical farming a reality. In an interview with, Despommier described how vertical farms would function:

Each floor will have its own watering and nutrient monitoring systems. There are so many nutrients that the plant has gotten absorbed. You will be able to use these technologies to detect bacterial infections by using various types of bacterial pathogens. It’s very easy to do.Moreover, a gas chromatograph will tell us when to pick the plant by looking at which flavenoids the produce contains. These flavonoids are what gives the food the flavors you’re fond of, especially for more flavoring produce tomatoes and peppers. These are all right-off-the-shelf technologies. The ability to build a vertical farm exists now. We do not have to make anything new. [21]

Architectural designs have been produced by Chris Jacobs from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena and Andrew Kranis from Columbia University and Gordon Graff [22] [23] from the University of Waterloo ‘s School of Architecture in Cambridge, ON .

Mass media attention began with an article written in New York magazine. Since 2007, articles have appeared in The New York Times , [24] US News & World Report , [25] Popular Science , [26] Scientific American [27] and Maxim , among others, as well as radio and television features.

As of 2012, Vertical Harvest is working on raising funds for an urban, small-scale vertical farm in Jackson Hole , Wyoming . [28]

In 2013, July 18, the Association for Vertical Farming was founded in Munich , Germany

As of 2014, Vertical Fresh Farms has been operating in Buffalo, NY specializing in a wide variety of salad greens , herbs , and sprouts. [29]



Opponents question the potential profitability of vertical farming. [30] The economic and environmental benefits of vertical farming rest on the concept of minimizing food miles , the distance that food travels from farm to consumer. original research? ] HOWEVER, a recent analysis Suggests That transportation is only a minor contributor to the economic and environmental costs of Supplying food to urban populations. The author of the report, University of Toronto Professor Pierre Desrochers, concluded that “food miles are at best, a marketing fad.” [31]Thus the facility would have to produce a considerable profit to justify remaining in the city. To simplify concept rather than trying to stack farms on multiple stories would be to just cultivate crops on the roofs of existing building.

Similarly, if the power needs of the fossil fuels, the environmental effect may be a net loss; [32] even building low-carbon capacity to power the farms, and burning less coal.

The initial building costs will be easily over $ 100 million, for a 60 hectare vertical farm. [33] Office occupancy costs can be very high in major cities, with cities Such As Tokyo , Moscow , Mumbai , Dubai , Milan , Zurich , and São Paulo ranging from $ 1850 to $ 880 per square meter, respectivement. [34]

Energy use

During the growing season, the sun shines on a vertical surface at an extreme angle such that much less is available to crops than when they are planted on flat land. Therefore, supplemental light would be required in order to obtain economically viable yields. Bruce Bugbee, a crop physiologist at Utah State University, believes that the power demands of natural farming will be too expensive and uncompetitive with natural light. [12] [35] The environmental writer George Monbiot calculated that the cost of providing enough additional light to grow the grain for a single loaf would be about $ 15. [36]An article in the Economist argues that “growing crops in the sun, but it will not be enough” and “the cost of powering artificial lights will make indoor farming prohibitively expensive”. [37]

As “The Vertical Farm” offers a controlled environment, heating and cooling costs will be at least as much as any other tower. But there also remains the issue of complicated, plumbing and elevator systems to distribute food and water throughout. Even throughout the continental United States, while heating with relatively little fossil fuels, the heating cost can be over $ 200,000 per hectare. [38]

To address this problem, The Plant in Chicago is building an anaerobic digester into the building. This will allow the farm to operate off the grid. Moreover, the anaerobic digester will be recycling businesses that would otherwise go into landfills. [39]


DEPENDING on the method of electricity generation used, regular greenhouse Produce can create more greenhouse gases than field Produce, [40] Largely due to Higher Energy use per kilogram of produce. With vertical farms requiring much greater energy per kilogram of produce, it is much more important than that of green produce. The amount of pollution produced is dependent on the energy used in the process is generated.

As a result, it usually increases the growth rate of CO 2 levels to 3-4 times the rate in the atmosphere. This increase in CO 2 , which has been shown to increase photosynthesis by 50%, is expected to increase in vertical farming. [41] It is not uncommon to find greenhouses burning fossil fuels purely for this purpose, as other CO 2 sources, such as furnaces, containing pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and ethylene which significantly damage plants. [41] This means a vertical farm will require a CO 2 source, most likely fromburning , even if the rest of the farm is powered by “green” energy. Also, through necessary ventilation, much CO 2 will be leaked into the city’s atmosphere.

Greenhouse growers commonly exploit photoperiodism in plants to control plants in a vegetative or reproductive stage. As part of this control, growers will have the lights on the sun. Single story greenhouses are already a nuisance to neighbors because of light pollution , a 30-story vertical farm in a densely populated area would surely face problems because of its light pollution. [42]

Hydroponics is a large quantity of water containing fertilizers and pesticides that must be disposed of. While solutions ares currently being white Worked there, The Most common method of simply spreading the mixture over a Sufficient Neighboring area of farmland or wetlands Would Be more difficulties for an urban vertical farm. [43]


Several potentials of vertical farming have been discussed by Despommier. [44] Many of these benefits are obtained from scaling up hydroponic or aeroponic growing methods.

Preparation for the future

It is estimated that by the year 2050, close to 80% of the world’s population will be in total population and will increase by 3 billion people. [45] A very large amount of land may be required depending on the exchange rate per hectare . Scientists are concerned that this large amount of farming will be caused by the farmland. According to Despommier, vertical farms, if designed properly, a cleaner environment can be created. [46] [47] [48]

Increased crop production

Unlike traditional farming in non-tropical areas, indoor farming can produce year-round crops. All-season farming multiplies the productivity of the farmed surface by a factor of 4 to 6 depending on the crop. With some crops, such as strawberries, the factor may be as high as 30. [49] [50]

In addition, they would have the same infrastructures in which they are grown, they will not be caught up in the production of infertility, infestation, and consequent. Research has shown that 30% of harvested crops are infected with infestation, though this number is much lower in developed nations. [27]

Despommier suggests that, if dwarf versions of certain crops are used (eg dwarf wheat , which has grown in space by NASA , is smaller in size but nutritious [51] ), year-round crops, and “stacker” plant holders are accounted for, a 30-story building (2 acres (5 acres)) would yield a crop of 1000 hectares (2,400 acres) of traditional farming. [27]

Protection from weather-related problems

Crops grown in traditional outdoor farming are often suboptimal, and sometimes extreme, nature of geological and meteorological events such as temperature, monsoons, hailstorms, tornadoes, flooding, wildfires, and severe droughts. [44] The protection of crops from the climate is increasingly important. “Three recent floods (in 1993, 2007 and 2008) cost the United States trillions of dollars in lost crops, with even more devastating losses in topsoil. century. ” [52]

Because vertical plant farming provides a controlled environment, the productivity of the verticals would be largely independent of the weather. Although most of these factors, earthquakes and tornadoes still pose threats to the proposed infrastructure,

Conservation of resources

Each unit of area in the United States may be subject to recovery from the United States, [53] [54] and recover farmlands from the original flat farmlands.

Vertical farming would reduce the need for overpopulation , thus saving many natural resources, [27] being threatened by deforestation or pollution . Deforestation and desertification caused by agricultural encroachment on natural biomes would be avoided. Because vertical farming is more likely to be consumed by consumers, it would substantially reduce the amount of fossil fuels currently being used in transport and refrigerate farm produce. Producing food indoors reduces or eliminates conventional plowing, planting, and harvesting by farm machinery, also powered by fossil fuels .

Halting mass extinction

Withdrawing human activity from large areas of the Earth’s surface may be necessary to slow and eventually halt the current anthropogenic mass extinction of land animals.

Traditional agriculture is highly disruptive to wild animal populations that live in and around farmland and some argue it becomes unethical when there is a viable alternative. One study showed that wood mouse populations dropped from 25 per hectare to 5 per hectare after harvest, estimating 10 animals killed per hectare each year. [55] In comparison, vertical farming would cause very little harm to wildlife, and would be allowed to be used to return to its pre-agricultural state. [55] [56]

Impact on human health

Traditional farming is a hazardous occupation. Such risks include: exposure to infectious diseases, such as malaria and schistosomes , exposure to toxic chemicals, and the use of pesticides and fungicides. The farming farming environment is inevitably about these risks (vertical farming – because of the environment. [44]Currently, the American food system makes fast, unhealthy food, encouraging poor eating habits. These poor eating habits lead to health problems such as obesity , heart disease , and diabetes . The increase availability and subsequent cost of food would encourage healthier eating.

Poverty / destitution and culture

Food security is one of the primary factors leading to absolute poverty. Being able to build a farm in the United States is one of the most important sources of relief. It also allows the growth of culturally significant food items without sacrificing sustainability or basic needs, which can be significant to the recovery of a society from poverty. [57]

Urban growth

Vertical farming, used in conjunction with other technologies and socioeconomic practices, could allow cities to expand while remaining largely self-sufficient food wise. This would allow for large urban centers that could grow without destroying. Moreover, the industry is planning to expand into urban centers. This may help displace the unemployment created by the dismantling of traditional farms, as more farm laborers move to cities in search of work. [44]

Energy sustainability

Vertical farms could exploit methane digesters to generate a small portion of its own electrical needs. Methane digesters Could Be built on site to transform the organic waste generated at the farm into biogas qui est Generally Composed of 65% methane along with other gases. This biogas could then be burned to generate electricity for the greenhouse. [58]

Technologies and devices

Vertical farming relies on the use of various physical methods to become effective. Combining these technologies and devices in an integrated world is necessary to make Vertical Farming a reality. Various methods are proposed and under research. The most common technologies suggest are:

  • Greenhouse
  • The Folkewall and other vertical growing architectures [59]
  • Flowerpot
  • Aeroponics / Hydroponics / Aquaponics
  • Composting
  • Grow light
  • phytoremediation
  • Skyscraper
  • Controlled-environment agriculture
  • Precision agriculture
  • Agricultural robot


Despommier argues that the technology to construct vertical farms currently exists. He also states that the system can be profitable and effective, a claim evidenced by some preliminary research posted on the project’s website. Developers and local gouvernements in The Following cities-have Expressed serious interest in Establishing a vertical farm: Incheon ( South Korea ), Abu Dhabi ( United Arab Emirates ), and Dongtan ( China ), [60] . New York City, Portland, Ore, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, [61]Seattle, Surrey, BC, Toronto, Paris, Bangalore, Dubai, Shanghai and Beijing. The Illinois Institute of Technology is now a detailed plan for Chicago. It is suggested that prototype versions of vertical farms should be created first, possibly at large universities interested in the research of vertical farms, in order to prevent failures such as the Biosphere 2 project in Oracle, Arizona. [62]

In 2009, the world’s first pilot production system was installed at Paignton Zoo Environmental Park in the United Kingdom. The project showcased a technical solution for vertical farming and provided a physical basis to conduct research into sustainable urban food production. The product is used to feed the animals while the project provides an assessment of the ecosystem and provides an educational resource for the exchange of sustainable ecosystems [63]

In 2010, the Green Zionist Alliance proposed a resolution at the 36th World Zionist Congress calling on Keren Kayemet The Yisrael ( Jewish National Fund in Israel) to develop vertical farms in Israel . [64]

In 2012, the world’s first commercial vertical farm was opened in Singapore, developed by Sky Greens Farms, and is three stories high. [65] [66] They currently have over 100 towers that stand at nine meters tall. [67]

In 2013 (July 18) the Association for Vertical Farming (AVF) was founded in Munich (Germany). By May 2015 the AVF already expanded with regional chapters all over Europe, Asia, USA, Canada and the United Kingdom. [68] This internationally active non-profit organization and the growth of vertical farmer. The AVF also focuses on advancing vertical farming technologies, designs and businesses by hosting international info-days, workshops and summits. They develop a glossary to bring consistency to the industry and help them standardize technologies. [69]

See also

  • Aeroponics
  • Agriculture
  • fish farming
  • Aquaponics
  • Arcology
  • Association for Vertical Farming
  • Development-supported agriculture
  • Folkewall
  • Foodscaping
  • Green wall
  • Internet of farming ( Internet of Things )
  • Pot farming
  • Terrace (agriculture) , Terrace (gardening) , and Terrace (building)
  • Urban horticulture


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