You’ve probably heard people talk about how vertical farms and their space-saving approaches to agriculture could help promote future food security and bring produce closer to those who consume it.
Many of today’s currently operating or planned vertical farms use hydroponic methods to grow the plants in water or aeroponic techniques where growers suspend the plants in the air and mist them. However, some vertical farms also use geoponic technology. It involves growing plants within soil or an aggregate, which is probably the most familiar option to people who are not agriculture professionals.
Here’s a glimpse at what’s possible when agricultural companies combine vertical farming with the latest options in geoponic technology.
Letting people pick their produce from the wall
When most shoppers visit the produce department in a grocery store, they pick items from shelves or bins. Such setups are still the most common across the world, but that could change due to geoponic technology that allows grocery stores to grow produce up their walls.
In New York, Evergreen Kosher Market introduced consumers to a 20-foot-high “wall farm,” where each offering sits in an individual pot. Shoppers can pick from a selection of arugula, basil, kale, lettuce, and cilantro. These products are pesticide-free and raised in soil free from bug exposure. Moreover, this type of farming yields a new crop every week, meaning the products are always in season for the people who want to buy them.
Getting optimal results with energy-efficient lights
Certain kinds of energy-efficient lights also cause positive effects for the crops. For example, the high-pressure sodium lights used in conventional horticultural lighting can get too hot and damage plants.
That’s why Canada’s GoodLeaf Community Farms used light-emitting diode (LED) options at its vertical farm. That way, the plants can grow as close as six inches from the light sources without encountering excessive warmth. The agricultural operation also uses a preset spectrum for the light output, specially chosen for providing an optimal level of brightness across the facility, which grows kale, broccoli, arugula, and peas in a peat-based medium.
Trying to solve the food crisis
People are increasingly concerned about the logistics associated with getting produce to individuals who live in urban areas or may otherwise have difficulty accessing nutritious foods. Many challenges exist.
For example, as produce travels to its destination, long routes can increase emissions that pollute the planet. Moreover, a shortage of available farmland could exacerbate food shortages for people everywhere.
One of the top advantages of vertical farming compared to other types is that it can happen in substantially smaller spaces than conventional agricultural efforts require. That feature makes it especially appropriate for the world’s sprawling areas that may not have expansive stretches of land to use for farming.
Statistics indicate that urban areas will likely contain 68% of the world’s population by 2050. People in some cities enjoy fresh produce through methods such as community-tended rooftop gardens. Geoponic vertical farms could offer another possibility.
One company sells shipping container-style gardens that can fit in parking lots and use geoponic technology. Destinations such as shopping centers and apartment complexes could start featuring those as competitive advantages. They’d give people quicker and more convenient access to produce than shopping in stores allows.
Sticking to soil-based methods while embracing new technologies
Most companies specializing in vertical farming mention their soil-free options. However, as the examples here show, geoponic-based methods can support non-horizontal agriculture methods, too. That reality could make some people more eager to get involved with this approach to growing food.
For example, many households have soil-based gardens in their backyards but are less familiar with hydroponic and aeroponic options that do not require dirt. If a person wants to get involved in vertical farming with a reduced learning curve, geoponic options could be their best bets.
All kinds of vertical farming approaches typically use sensors that ensure the crops get enough light, water, and nutrients. This lower-waste approach promotes a more sustainable future and could lead to higher yields throughout the year rather than in smaller seasonal windows.
For these reasons and others, vertical farming is worth following for the foreseeable future. It’ll undoubtedly be interesting to see the geoponic-specific use cases and companies that arrive on the market, too.
YouTube: Vertical Farming at NY Farm-to-Table Restaurant Amid COVID-19
Photo credit: The feature image is owned by Evergreen Kosher and Vertical Field. The plant close-up photo was taken by Kathleen Phillips for Texas A&M AgriLife Research. The photo showing a design engineer was prepared by This is Engineering.
Source: Evergreen Kosher press release on New Hope Network / Mark Halper (LEDs Magazine) / Aaron Reich (Jerusalem Post)