Vertical Agriculture Industry

The future of farming has arrived, and it is vertical. Vertical farming may seem like something out of a sci-fi story, but soon they’ll be as ubiquitous as your local grocery stores. The technique grows crops in vertical layers, which optimizes plant growth and soilless farming techniques while boosting sustainability while saving space. 

Columbia’s Dickson Despommier, from the school of Public and Environmental Health, came up with the idea with his students in 1999. Their work was part of a challenge to feed 50,000 people from a kind of skyscraper farm. This vertical approach to urban farming is especially compelling in cities where there’s not enough space to farm at scale. These futuristic farms could even help reduce our carbon footprint, according to Pacific Standard magazine

Vertical farming may seem like something out of a sci-fi novel, but soon they’ll be as ubiquitous as your local grocery stores.

The benefits of growing local 

There are myriad benefits of growing food in urban spaces rather than transporting it. First, it cuts down on the costs of that transportation, while also providing steady access to fresh and healthy produce. Another is making productive use of abandoned or empty office buildings. Particularly post-pandemic, the expanding work-from-home culture has left more real estate available to create these types of urban farms. Plus, local produce is fresher, often healthier, and has a far smaller carbon footprint than something grown hundreds of miles away and shipped in on trucks or boats. 

Having fresh fruits and vegetables grown close ties well into the growing slow food movement, which embraces the strong connections between plate, planet, people, politics and culture.

In his TEDxBeijing talk, agricultural tech entrepreneur Stuart Oda promoted vertical farming as the innovation for our future of urban farming practices. 

Are indoor vertical farms the future of agriculture? | Stuart Oda

The future of farming has arrived, and it is vertical. These farms may seem like something out of a sci-fi novel, but soon they’ll be as ubiquitous as your local grocery stores. The technique… optimizes plant growth and soilless farming techniques while boosting sustainability while saving space. 


What are the hurdles to vertical farming?

One of the biggest hurdles to establishing vertical farms is the labor and electricity required to run them. Until lower-energy consumption tools are cheaper to implement, the cost of energy required to run these types of farms can make them financially untenable. According to Agritecture, a closed-farming consultancy, the cost for producing food in these buildings can be 6 to 10 times higher than within a greenhouse. Turning high-rises into a huge farm can also take deft navigation of zoning policies and other site-specific permitting requirements that can come up.

Finally, in the face of increasing drought conditions, particularly across the American West and Southwest, the combination of building bespoke irrigation systems, water usage and costs, can further complicate vertical farming projects. 

Community-supported agriculture is another pathway to producing food locally, sustainably and at a lower cost while forging bonds among city blocks. 


Vertical farming may seem like something out of a sci-fi novel, but soon they’ll be as ubiquitous as your local grocery stores.

The takeaway

With its post-apocalyptic look and urban settings, vertical farming can appear as if it’s a practice that’s far from practical–almost other-worldly. In fact, it may be a lifeline for numerous communities in the near future. (Interestingly, much of the technology related to vertical farming is being developed for use in space.) Still, it’s a compelling option to have here on Earth, too. 

A lot of us would love to see a future where more produce grows locally and where cities are greener in general. Vertical agriculture could also create new jobs for people who have a green thumb but still want to live somewhere urban. As large segments of the workforce continue to work from home and more office spaces are left behind, it will be interesting to see if this approach to food production takes off and brings produce, jobs and change to city dwellers.

Poll Questions:

  1. How often do you try to eat locally-produced foods and ingredients?
    • Almost never
    • Occasionally
    • Frequently
  2. Do you think vertical farming could help make cities more sustainable? Y/N

The future of farming has arrived, and it is vertical. These farms may seem like something out of a sci-fi novel, but soon they’ll be as ubiquitous as your local grocery stores. The technique grows crops in vertical layers, which optimizes plant growth and soilless farming techniques while boosting sustainability while saving space. 

One of the biggest hurdles to establishing vertical farms is the labor and electricity required to run them. Until lower-energy consumption tools are cheaper to implement, the cost of energy required to run these types of farms can make them financially untenable. 

With its post-apocalyptic look and urban settings, vertical farming can appear as if it’s from a sci-fi movie, but may be a lifeline for numerous communities in the near future. Interestingly, much of the technology related to vertical farming is being developed for use in space. Still, it’s a compelling option to have here on Earth, too. As large segments of the workforce continue to work from home and more office spaces are left behind, it will be interesting to see if this approach to food production takes off and brings produce, jobs and change to city dwellers. 

Vertical farming may seem like something out of a sci-fi novel, but soon they’ll be as ubiquitous as your local grocery stores.

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