The world has nearly lost 33% of high-quality food-producing land (Via The Guardian). This arable land scarcity and the extreme rise of urbanization cause worries to both modern and conventional farmers. However, the vertical method of farming and its advantages have shown some sort of hope in this distress.
Vertical hydroponic farming is the process of growing crops on top of each other rather than practicing traditional horizontal rows. This modern farming method allows us to cultivate more crops within a limited space. Therefore, growers can achieve higher yields per square foot of land used.
In the coming decades, the world population is projected to consume 70% more food. Keeping this in mind, the need for innovative and efficient farming practices has never been more pressing.
In this blog, we’ll explore vertical farming advantages and disadvantages which will give you insights into vertical farming practices in contemporary agriculture.
Vertical Farming Advantages: A Descriptive Table
Vertical farming has a few significant benefits that can help us overcome the problem of inadequate food production. In this section, we’ll demonstrate a table that will give you quick insights into vertical farming’s advantages.
|Advantages of Vertical Farming
|Growers can cultivate crops within a limited space. It allows home growers and commercial growers to maximize food production in an urbanized and space-constrained area.
|Year-round food production
|If you opt for vertical farming, one thing is certain, you can get consistent crop production throughout the year.
|Practicing vertical farming causes no environmental degradation like soil erosion, water pollution, or deforestation.
|Less Water Usage
|Farmers can use 98% less water by implementing hydroponics vertical farming.
|Food Security and Self-Reliance
|Producing food locally reduces the dependency on long-distance transportation and imports.
|Fresh and Local Produce
|Vertical farming hydroponic can supply fresh produce throughout the year despite the harsh climatic conditions or limited agricultural potential.
|No Risk of Chemicals and Pesticides
|Growers don’t need to be stressed regarding pests and diseases. It abolishes the need for harmful pesticides.
|It provides higher yields per area compared to traditional farming
|Low Labor Cost
|Much of the work in vertical farming can be automated which reduces the need for labor and labor cost.
Advantages of Vertical Farming
We’ve already shared a descriptive table regarding the benefits of vertical farming. That will surely give you a quick overview. Now, we’ll discuss the advantages of vertical farming in detail.
Here is a list of hydroponic vertical farming advantages:
- Space Efficiency
- Water Efficiency
- Precision Resource Utilization
- Reduced Pesticides Use
- Year-Round Production
- Higher Crop Yields
- Localized Food Production
- Reduced Transportation Cost
Do you know that 31 million acres of U.S. agricultural land has been irreversibly lost to urban expansion since 1982? Besides, every hour 175 acres of farmland and ranchland are lost to make way for housing and industries.
In this modern era where the shortage of arable land is increasing, farmers and growers needed a space-efficient way to produce food. That’s where vertical farming comes into play.
Hydroponic vertical farming maximizes the use of limited space. With the vertical farming technique, farmers can use 99% less land compared to traditional farming.
80% of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050. Therefore, the cultivable land will decrease, and the demand for food will increase. In that situation, vertical farming can be a solution as it offers a way to meet the demand for food without the need for vast land or fields.
With the vertical farming method, growers can use 98% less water compared to conventional soil-based farming. Like any other hydroponic system, the vertical farming technique uses trays or towers to grow plants in vertically stacked layers. The roots of vertically produced plants are suspended in water.
Plants absorb the hydroponic nutrients solution directly. Therefore, they don’t need an additional medium like soil. For this reason, the necessity of water is minimal compared to soil-based gardening.
Precision Resource Utilization
In vertical farming, controlled environments enable precise management of resources such as light, water, and nutrients. This precise control minimizes resource wastage, addressing sustainability concerns.
LED lighting, for instance, can be used to match the needs of specific crops. Besides, you can recycle water and nutrients by using closed-loop systems.
The precise control over the pH, EC of the water, and nutrient solution, and adjusting them accordingly will help growers to avoid nutrient deficiencies. This will eventually reduce the waste of water and nutrients as well.
Reduced Pesticides Use
Controlled indoor environments in vertical farms create conditions less conducive to pests and diseases. This reduced susceptibility to infestation translates into lower pesticide usage. The result is healthier, safer produce that meets stringent food safety standards that address both health and environmental concerns.
Consistent crop production throughout the year is one of the vital benefits of vertical farming. So, if you’re a hydroponic gardener who is producing crops using the vertical method, then you won’t have to think about the harsh climatic conditions.
Your farm’s vital factors such as water, nutrients, air, lighting, temperature, and pH will be under your control. So, with consistent indoor conditions, crops can be grown year-round.
Besides, this continuity in production stabilizes the food supply, reducing vulnerabilities to weather fluctuations, droughts, or frosts. These factors can devastate traditional outdoor farming.
Higher Crop Yields
Vertical farming crop yield rate is 40 times higher than traditional outdoor farms. You can easily observe the benefits of this farming by seeing the numbers. Typically, an acre of vertical farming space yields the same quantity of crops as 40 acres of land in a regular farming method.
Localized Food Production
Hydroponic vertical farming promotes localized food production which brings agriculture closer to the urban population. This also reduces the carbon footprint related to long-distance food transport. It actually contributes to a more sustainable food system.
Also, consumers can get access to locally produced fresh food which will also strengthen the connection between the communities and their food sources.
Reduced Transportation Cost
Strategically located near urban centers; vertical farms decrease the distance food must travel to reach consumers. This proximity minimizes transportation costs, fuel consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions associated with long-distance food distribution. In this way, fresher produce is also delivered to consumers.
Disadvantages of Vertical Hydroponic Farming
Everything has its pros and cons. In that sense, vertical farming isn’t any different. In this section, we’ll discuss the disadvantages of vertical hydroponic farming.
Here is a list of disadvantages of vertical hydroponic farming:
- High Start-up Cost
- Lack of Pollination
- Limited Crop Variety
- Technical Expertise
- Energy Consumption
- Maintenance Requirement
- Initial Learning Curve
High Start-Up Cost
The first big disadvantage of vertical farming is the high start-up cost. The upfront investment is high due to the complexity of building a profitable plant. Besides, the tools and technologies related to vertical hydroponic farming are new and expensive.
Also, the COVID-19 pandemic increased the price of many necessary components of vertical farming. In addition, the high running cost is also a burden to some of the new urban farmers. All of this means that vertical farming start-up cost is still out of hand for many newbie farmers. Besides, indoor gardening enthusiasts and hobbyists who have budget constraints will also experience challenges due to the high initial investments.
Lack of Pollination
The closed system of vertical farm makes sure that no pests get in. For this reason, there are no insects there. We all know that varieties of insects fly from flower to flower packed with pollen.
However, this natural pollination process is stopped due to the “no insects allowed” policy of vertical farms. So, a lack of pollination occurs. That’s why the process of pollination is manually handled by farmers which is a delicate task.
Limited Crop Variety
In hydroponic vertical farming, only a handful of plants can make a profit. It’s because of the high cost of growing plants. Low-priced foods like potatoes aren’t worth producing on a vertical farm.
Some of the profitable vertical farming plants are salads, herbs, microgreens, tomatoes, cucumber, mushrooms, strawberries, beans, peas, water lentils, bell peppers, and black pepper.
Lack of technical expertise, and educated workforce is another disadvantage of vertical farming. Besides, recruiting experienced personnel is challenging due to the new technologies.
In fact, vertical cultivation is done commercially only for a short duration. As a result, the labor force didn’t get any great opportunity to learn technical knowledge related to vertical farming.
To solve this, we suggest that hydroponic farmers look for people who have the required skillset and mindset to learn about this new field.
High power consumption is another issue that raises questions about the level of sustainability of vertical farms. If growers run a complete indoor vertical farm, then they will be required to use LED lights almost all the time.
Therefore, the energy consumption and cost of electricity will be really high. Of note, electricity is generated with the help of coal. So, experts may ask regarding vertical farming sustainability.
Vertical hydroponic farming requires consistent maintenance to ensure optimal plant growth. Farmers must be capable of maintaining vertical farming that includes nutrient monitoring, pH monitoring, water quality, pests and diseases control, equipment maintenance, Grow lights management, Air Ventilation & Extraction through hydro fans, and harvesting and pruning.
This heavy maintenance requires specific skills and knowledge. Besides, the level of maintenance can be difficult if the indoor farmer is running a larger or more complex vertical system.
Initial Learning Curve
Newbie farmers who want to initiate vertical hydroponic farming often face a steep learning curve due to the intricacies of the system. These challenges include:
- System Setup
- Nutrient Management
- Environmental control
- Pests and Diseases Management
Newcomer farmers should learn about vertical farming to avoid the complexities. A lot of resources are available for education and training, for instance, books, online courses, local workshops, and hydroponic communities. These resources can aid newbie hydroponic farmers in overcoming the initial learning curve and gaining valuable skills required for successful vertical hydroponic farming.
Is vertical Farming Sustainable?
Regarding the sustainability of vertical farming, it’s not possible to provide a definitive answer in yes or no. In many cases, growers can observe the eco-friendly side of vertical farming. For instance, vertical farming uses 90% less water compared to traditional agriculture.
In this section, we’ve compiled a list that will provide insights about vertical farming sustainability:
- Vertical farming uses old empty buildings for installing the setup
- Hydroponic vertical farms can be located anywhere which reduces “food miles” and carbon footprint in transportation.
- Vertical systems lower overall CO2 output by 67-92% compared with greenhouses.
- Vertical gardening achieves higher crop yields, sometimes up to 40 times more than soil-based agriculture.
However, there is a downside to vertical hydroponic gardening in terms of sustainability. Vertical farming consumes a significant amount of energy. Continuous use of LED lights and ensuring the proper ventilation system will require higher energy. In this sense, hydroponic vertical farming doesn’t really sound environmentally friendly.
But, in most cases, for example, water usage, crop yield, and carbon emission; vertical farming gives a strong indication of its sustainability.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Here we’ve answered some frequently asked queries regarding “hydroponic vertical farming advantages and disadvantages”.
What are vertical farming pros and cons?
The pros of vertical farming are efficient water use, higher yields, no risk of chemical and pesticides, and locally produced fresher foods. On the other hand, one of the prime disadvantages of hydroponic vertical farming is high energy consumption. Besides, the high initial set-up cost, limitation in cultivating a variety of crops, and lack of pollination are some of the cons of vertical farming.
What advantages do vertical farming systems offer compared to traditional methods?
Vertical Farming provides several benefits that include efficient space utilization in urban areas, reduced water usage, weather resistance, decreased need for pesticides, higher yields, and consistent crop quality.
How does vertical farming work?
Vertical farming is a modern agricultural method. It’s a practice of growing crops in vertically stacked layers or on vertical surfaces. Like any hydroponics, aquaponics, or aeroponics, it uses a controlled indoor environment.
There are a lot of vertical farming advantages and disadvantages. But the advantages are much more significant compared to its limitations. Overall, vertical farming is a sustainable solution to growing indoor plants in city areas.
To summarize, the advantages of vertical farming are space efficiency, increased yields, sustainable food production, water efficiency, reduced carbon dioxide emission, locally produced fresh food, and more.
On the other hand, the downsides of this farming aren’t many. The one negative thing about the vertical gardening system is its energy consumption.
The future of vertical farming is promising. Experts are saying It’s possible that it will take over 50% of the leafy greens market of the U.S. in 10 years. If you’re planning to start your own hydroponic vertical farming, join the hydroponic community.