From advancements in lighting, racking, HVAC, automation, and more, vertical farming technology has evolved rapidly in the past decade to the point where commercial viability for specific crops is now clearly achievable. But there are still challenges: unit economics for many crops, energy consumption, and labor, to name a few.
Led by Agritecture Founder Henry Gordon-Smith, this webinar, sponsored by Montel, dove into the advancements that have led us to this exciting point and debated the innovations still needed.
Agritecture is an advisory services and technology firm focused on climate-smart agriculture, particularly urban and controlled environment agriculture (CEA). Montel is a leading vertical farming technology provider.
Vertical farming is the practice of growing crops in vertically stacked layers. It often incorporates controlled-environment agriculture, which aims to optimize plant growth, and soilless farming techniques such as hydroponics, aquaponics, and aeroponics. Some common choices of structures to house vertical farming systems include buildings, shipping containers, tunnels, and abandoned mine shafts. As of 2020, there is the equivalent of about 30 ha (74 acres) of operational vertical farmland in the world.
The modern concept of vertical farming was proposed in 1999 by Dickson Despommier, professor of Public and Environmental Health at Columbia University. Despommier and his students came up with a design of a skyscraper farm that could feed 50,000 people. Although the design has not yet been built, it successfully popularized the idea of vertical farming. Current applications of vertical farmings coupled with other state-of-the-art technologies, such as specialized LED lights, have resulted in over 10 times the crop yield than would receive through traditional farming methods.