Green Living Guide

Vertical farming: A key to a sustainable urban future


Vertical farming is an eye-popping construction to grace the world with a new and innovative concept of agriculture. Skyfarming, as it is also known, is a proposal to perform agriculture in urban high-rises. In these farmscrapers (high-rises) food such as vegetables, fruit, fish and even livestock can be raised by using greenhouse-growing methods. The idea is to grow food in urban areas by creating tall buildings where each floor is its own super greenhouse capable of growing crops to feed people.


With the continuous growth in population, arable land is under threat from deforestation, over-farming, poor management and global warming. All these factors point to vertical farming being an idea whose time may finally have arrived.

The Bold Idea:

Vertical farming is a pioneering idea, which will certainly change our future but for the better. But vertical farms where we hope to grow staple crops in environmentally friendly skyscrapers exist only in futuristic designs today. Nevertheless, the concept will be a reality very soon. Dickson Despommier, a professor at Columbia University, firmly believes the new model of agriculture is vital to avoid an awaiting disaster.

Despommier says,

The reason why we need vertical farming is that horizontal farming is failing.

According to the recent studies, vertical farming is a groundbreaking concept that has the potential to help solve impending food shortages. It purely makes sense as the environment will benefit from it to a large extent. This bold idea will bring a sustainable future.


Vertical farming has several potential advantages associated with it.

1. Year-round crop production as vertical farming multiplies the productivity of the farmed surface by a factor of 4 to 6 depending upon the crop (e.g., strawberries: 1 indoor acre = 30 outdoor acres).
2. No weather-related crop failures due to geological and meteorological events such as droughts, floods, earthquakes, wildfires or pests.
3. Vertical farming virtually eliminates agricultural runoff by recycling black water.
4. It food is grown organically eliminating the use of herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers.
5. It converts black and gray water into potable water by collecting the water released into the air by evapo-transpiration.
6. It greatly reduces the occurrence of many infectious diseases that are acquired at the agricultural interface.
7. It reduces the need of new farmland, restoring ecosystem functions and resources.
8. It adds energy back to the grid via methane generation from composting non-edible parts of plants and animals.
9. Vertical farming dramatically reduces fossil fuel use as no tractors or plows are required.
10. It converts deserted urban properties into food production centers.
11. It creates sustainable environments for urban centers.
12. It opens new avenues for employment
13. Vertical farming may prove to be useful for integrating into refugee camps.
14. It offers the promise of measurable economic improvement for tropical and subtropical LDCs. If this should prove to be the case, then VF may be a catalyst in helping to reduce or even reverse the population growth of LDCs as they adopt urban agriculture as a strategy for sustainable food production.
15. It could reduce the incidence of armed conflict over natural resources, such as water and land for agriculture.

Technologies & Devices:

Vertical farming is dependent on various physical methods to produce food. The vertical farm brings these technologies and devices together, most of which are still under research. Some of the most common and popular technologies used are:

1. Solar greenhouse (technical) / Greenhouse:

A solar greenhouse works by letting the solar radiations penetrate in order to heat the ground along with the structure and then traps the energy to increase and maintain the temperature at a much higher level than normal.

2. Aeroponics / Hydroponics:

Aerponics, a form of hydroponic technique, is a method of growing crops in a closed or semi-closed environment with their roots suspended in a misted nutrient solution. Aeroponic growing practices are considered safe and ecologically friendly for producing natural, healthy plants and crops and also conserves water and energy.

3. Composting:

Composting is a process that includes purposeful biodegradation of organic matter by micro-organisms such as bacteria, yeasts and fungi. It up-cycles organic kitchen and yard waste and manures into an exceptional humus, bringing vital organic matter, nutrients and bacteria that are very important to plant nutrition.

4. Grow light:

A grow light is an electric lamp that emits an electromagnetic spectrum to support plant growth. The emitted light spectrum is similar to that emitted from the sun and is appropriate for photosynthesis, allowing indoor growth with outdoor conditions. It is widely used for indoor gardening, plant propagation and food production, including indoor hydroponics and aquatic plants. Grow lights are being extensively used for vertical farming.

5. Phytoremediation:

Phytoremediation is a method applied to deal with the environmental problems by using plants to diminish them. It is a clean, inexpensive, eco-friendly and efficient method to mitigate environmental problem without the need to excavate the contaminant material and dispose of it elsewhere.

6. Skyscraper:

A skyscraper is a tall, habitable building that protrudes above its built environment and changes the overall skyline. With the decline in the land available for residential complexes declining at a fast pace, architects had just one option – use the sky. Skyscrapers offer architects enough space to build hundreds of apartments with a small footprint. The approach allows more space to be utilized for farmlands and animal sanctuaries, which can benefit the environment in many ways.

Dr Prem Jagyasi and Team

Dr Prem is an award winning strategic leader, renowned author, publisher and highly acclaimed global speaker. Aside from publishing a bevy of life improvement guides, Dr Prem runs a network of 50 niche websites that attracts millions of readers across the globe. Thus far, Dr Prem has traveled to more than 40 countries, addressed numerous international conferences and offered his expert training and consultancy services to more than 150 international organizations. He also owns and leads a web services and technology business, supervised and managed by his eminent team. Dr Prem further takes great delight in travel photography.

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