4 Reasons Why Vertical Farming is the Future of Sustainable Agriculture

4 Reasons Why Vertical Farming is the Future of Sustainable Agriculture

What is vertical farming?

Well, it is what it sounds like it is- farming upwards in stacks, using racks or shelves to grow crops as opposed to traditional outdoor farming methods that use acreage to plant crops in the ground.
Vertical farming is the method used here at the Dani Greens farm and there's some really great reasons why I not only utilize it, but also why I love it and want to share about all of the benefits of vertical farming with all of you. I believe that vertical farming creates opportunities for people who wouldn't have had access to farm fresh food, to more easily access it. Vertical farming has the ability to impact food insecurity, and that's the first and most important reason that vertical farming is amazing.
The future of Agriculture is bright! With the use of vertical farming methods, so many new possibilities are on the horizon.
Let's talk about some of my favorite benefits that vertical farming offers.

1. Space
Traditional farms use acres of land to grow their crops, usually in rows and across the surface of the ground. Many traditional farms have expensive watering systems and farming equipment, in order to maintain large crops that cover a considerable amount of the land.
With vertical farming, however, only a small amount of space is needed in order to accomplish the same goal of growing various crops in one compact space. In order to use the vertical farming method for personal use, you would only need about 6 square feet. In even such a small space, enough food to feed a small family is easily produced.
Imagine if every home in America got one rack or installed shelving units, in a 6 square foot space, and grew food for their family. This means that even if you don't own a piece of land, you can still grow your own food to feed your family. Vertical farming has opened up a whole new realm of farming, that even communities located in urban areas are able to take advantage of.

When we say that something is sustainable, what we mean is that the practice can be sustained in its current state of operation. Many people don't realize that traditional farming on a large scale is playing a role in destroying our natural resources at an excessive rate. Supporting local farms is a great practice. However, large outdoor farms often harm their local ecosystems and therefore are not sustainable in their current state.
Topsoil is damaged by traditional farms. Soil is being depleted, since nutrients from the soil are used before they can reproduce naturally. Topsoil is often added back to the soil for the next round of crops since there aren't resting periods allowed, for the soil to produce its own nutrients.
The use of harsh chemicals by traditional farming is also an issue of sustainability. local wildlife is sometimes unable to sustain itself where large traditional farm land is established, since their food sources can be impacted by the use of pesticides, herbicides and insecticides. Wildlife in these areas leave in search for new food sources and healthy land that they can live off of. The run off of pesticides and herbicides into nearby rivers and lakes effects the local wildlife as well as surrounding communities.
Researchers have found that 2 widely used pesticides are killing endangered species of fish due to run off produced by farms. Various species of salmon and steelhead are on the list of dozens of endangered fish species that are being harmed by the use of pesticides on traditional farms.
Honey bees are sadly impacted by the use of insecticides. In fact, bees are dying at an astonishing rate due to the use of insecticides by traditional farms. One 2019 study found that a whopping 40% of the honey bee colonies they studied were lost, partly as a result of the use of insecticides. Honey bees are killed by insecticides either by direct contact, or indirect. Honey bees aren’t the only pollinators and beneficial insects effected by the use of pesticides either. The harm caused to pollinators as a result of pesticides and insecticides is a problem that has been cause for increasing concern.
Some people might wonder why it’s such a big deal to lose honey bees. They're only BUGS. But honey bees and other pollinators like butterflies have a direct effect on our lives and are important for us to protect. Without pollinators, our crops cannot be pollinated. Without honey bees and other pollinators, we wouldn't have fruits and vegetables, and that's just the simplified explanation. Our honey bee colonies need to be protected.
Save the bees!
Vertical farming protects pollinators. And that is a reason in itself to praise this practice.
Water conservation is another aspect of sustainable farming that is important to consider. Traditional farms use a massive amount of water for their crops. Many of them use elaborate watering systems, while others use simple sprinklers to water their crops. The problem is that these systems are mostly inefficient. A lot of the water from the systems is not actually being soaked up by the crop, and is left to run in order to be sure that the crops do receive enough water.
The vertical farming method uses a minuscule amount of water in comparison to traditional farming. Only the necessary amount of water is used on vertical farms, since watering is targeted. The crops on vertical farms only receive the amount of water they will need to grow. Water is conserved, and the crops continue to thrive.
One study found that vertical farming during lettuce growth reduced water usage as compared to traditional farming methods by 96%!
Urban vertical farming has the potential to reduce waste and transportation costs in addition, since farms using this method can be planted right in the center of any bustling city. Crops then would no longer need to be transported long distance by plane, train, ship or big rig, since vertical farming can be utilized even in an urban setting.

3. Climate
Climate control is one of the most important aspects of farming. And it’s also one of the best reasons why vertical farming is the future of sustainable agriculture. Because vertical farming can be practiced indoors- in greenhouses, warehouses, or in homes, the climate can easily be controlled. This is as huge advantage to any farmer, since drought or excessive rain cannot harm indoor crops that are grown on vertical farms. Vertical farming can be accomplished outside, but it is usually practiced indoors, specifically for the use of climate control.
Climate control allows year round harvesting of crops. Vertical farming can produce up to 240 times as much food compared to traditional outdoor farms that are constrained by the growing seasons and weather conditions.
As previously mentioned, vertical farming is especially promising when it comes to food insecurity and making nutrient dense, whole foods easily available to people who haven't otherwise had access to fruits and vegetables.
And this comes full circle to the topic of-

4. Biodiversity
The issue of biodiversity has been a hot topic lately. Biodiversity is crucial in agriculture as it provides essential ecosystem services like pollination, pest regulation, and soil fertility. The loss of agricultural biodiversity globally is attributed to practices like monoculture and the use of fertilizers and pesticides that harm natural habitats.
Farmers can enhance biodiversity through sustainable practices such as crop rotation and diversification, preserving genetic diversity in seeds and animals.
Increasing biodiversity on farmland benefits farmers by improving productivity potential and ecosystem stability in the face of environmental changes.
Ultimately, biodiversity plays a critical role in food security, environmental health, and the sustainability of agriculture.
While it’s likely that traditional farming is here to stay in some capacity, vertical farming has the potential to enhance biodiversity by reducing the need for large-scale land clearing and minimizing pesticide use. Controlled indoor environments allow for more sustainable agricultural practices, promoting biodiversity conservation.
I believe that vertical farming is the future of sustainable farming because it protects biodiversity, and can be fully automated, to bring food security, and to protect natural resources.
Not only is vertical farming sustainable, but it has also created innovations in agriculture, that could be revolutionary.
Vertical farming has seen various innovations, including:
1. Advanced Lighting Systems: LED and other advanced lighting systems enable precise control over light spectrum and intensity, optimizing plant growth.
2. Hydroponics and Aeroponics: Soilless cultivation methods like hydroponics (using nutrient-rich water) and aeroponics (misting roots with nutrient solutions) enhance resource efficiency and crop yields.
3. Automated Systems: Robotics and automation are used for tasks such as planting, harvesting, and monitoring, increasing efficiency and reducing labor requirements.
5. Vertical Growing Structures: Innovative designs for vertical farms, such as modular and stackable systems, allow for scalable and adaptable setups.
6. Genetic Engineering: Research in crop genetics is aimed at developing plants that thrive in indoor environments, improving yields and resource efficiency.
7. Data Analytics and AI: Integration of data analytics and artificial intelligence helps in monitoring and adjusting various parameters for optimal crop growth.
These innovations collectively contribute to making vertical farming more productive, resource-efficient, and sustainable.
It won't be long before vertical farms are all across the country, and are fully automated, growing nutrient dense crops, that have the ability to make farm fresh food more accessible to the people who need it most.
While reading various online articles about vertical farming to write this blog post, I came across a super interesting article that I wanted to show you.
One farm has utilized vertical farming in the ocean! They grow mussels, seaweed, and scallops on floating racks that are stacked above oyster and clam cages underneath them. How cool is that!
The article goes on to say:
“The ocean farms are systems of underwater vertical gardens, able to grow 10 to 30 tons of sea vegetables and 250,000 shellfish on each acre per year. Using these crops, food, fertiliser, animal feed and biofuels can be produced. According to the company, the kelp produced absorbs five times more carbon than land-based plants, and the crops do not require any fertilisers, freshwater, antibiotics or pesticides. Rather than conventional and vulnerable monocultures, this approach creates resilient, biodiverse ecosystems using the entire water column from sea-bed to the surface.”
Read the entire article here https://goexplorer.org/vertical-ocean-farming-creates-healthy-ecosystems/
Before learning about growing microgreens, I had no idea what vertical farming was, nor had I ever seen it done before. After running a vertical farm and growing a good amount of microgreens on 2 stainless steel racks that take up such a small amount of space, I realized just how beneficial vertical farming is for the reasons I listed above and others as well.
While vertical farming is the future of sustainable agriculture, there is one specific drawback, which I’ve experienced at the Dani Greens farm, even at a very small scale.
Energy efficiency needs to be a focus on vertical farms, in order for them to be sustainable.
Due to the need for watering systems on larger farms, and lighting systems, vertical farms can be inefficient when it comes to the energy needed to sustain them. It can be costly, therefore, to run a vertical indoor farm, which is a drawback, since energy efficiency is imperative when it comes to sustainability.
I feel though, that when this one drawback is compared to the other various drawbacks of traditional outdoor farming, which include harm being done to our local ecosystems, the use of pesticides and herbicides, and the loss of pollinators, finding solutions for energy efficiency is a minor issue.
Some of the recent solutions to make vertical farms more energy efficient are:
1. LED Lighting Technology: Use energy-efficient LED lights with optimized spectra for plant growth. These lights consume less energy compared to traditional lighting and can be fine-tuned to specific plant needs.
2. Renewable Energy Sources: Integrate renewable energy sources such as solar panels or wind turbines to power vertical farms, reducing reliance on conventional energy grids.
3. Energy-Efficient HVAC Systems: Employ high-efficiency heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems to maintain optimal growing conditions while minimizing energy consumption.
4. Insulation and Design: Ensure proper insulation in the facility and use energy-efficient building design to minimize heat loss or gain, reducing the workload on climate control systems.
5. Cyclic Lighting Strategies: Implement cyclic lighting schedules to match plant growth stages, allowing for periods of reduced lighting intensity or even darkness, thereby saving energy.
6. Energy Recovery Systems: Utilize energy recovery systems to capture and reuse waste heat generated within the facility, improving overall energy efficiency.
7. Smart Automation: Employ smart sensors and automation systems to monitor and control environmental conditions in real-time, optimizing energy use based on plant requirements.
8. Energy-Efficient Equipment: Choose energy-efficient equipment, such as pumps and fans, to further minimize energy consumption in the farming operation.
By combining these solutions, vertical farms can significantly reduce their energy footprint, making the overall production process more sustainable and cost-effective..
The Dani Greens farm does currently use some of these solutions such as LED lighting, cyclic lighting strategies and smart automation. These solutions also help the farm to run more smoothly and ensure that the Dani Greens microgreens are on stricter growing schedules.
Vertical farming is still such a new method of farming, and has been met with some controversy due to energy efficiency drawbacks, however, these issues are easily solvable, and the benefits clearly outweigh the risks by far.
Some of the larger microgreens farm in the US and Canada are simply AMAZING! They grow their Greens in large warehouses that are stacked all the way to the high ceiling, and are fully automated, to feed large cities farm fresh greens.
I hope that as Dani Greens gets the word out about microgreens and their many benefits to the Yuba Sutter area, that it will grow and that I can have the opportunity to grow lots of farm fresh greens even for area's outside of Yuba Sutter.
I am so excited to be a part of the vertical farming community, and to have the opportunity to share about it with all of you!
If you're interested in vertical farming, you can do it right in your own home! There are vertical farming systems meant for personal use that you can find online, to grow your own food right in your living room year round.
I am a firm believer that everyone should be growing their own food in some capacity.
There's nothing like growing your own food, and feeding your family with it.
But if you don't have the time or the desire to do that, that's okay too! Because the Dani Greens farm is here to help you with that.
Dani Greens uses the vertical farming method right in the heart of Yuba City? To grow all of our Greens without the use of pesticides or herbicides, then harvests, packages and delivers your order right to your home, so you can skip a trip to the grocery store, and get a product that is far more nutrient dense and beneficial than any grocery store vegetable you'll find.
If you're interested in trying Dani Greens microgreens, head over to www.danigreens.com and place your order for local delivery in the Yuba-Sutter area.
I can’t wait for you to try them! 💚

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