The Pros and Cons of Vertical Farming

So I’ve thrown together a list of pros and cons for vertical farming. If you don’t know what vertical farming is, do a quick Google search. There are some interesting sites out there with some pretty cool vertical farming designs.

Take a look at these. If you have any pros or cons to add, hit up the comment section.

Upsides:

Year-round crops. No winter and no need to wait for the right growing season.

No weather issues. No crop failures due to droughts, floods, pests, etc.

Organic by default. No herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers needed.

Water-cycle neutral. No agricultural runoff. Black and grey water are recycled.

Smaller footprint. Less land is used. Existing horizontal farmland can be returned to its natural ecosystem.

Potential electrical generation. Methane from composting non-edible waste can be converted into electricity.

Reduced fossil fuel use. No diesel-burning tractors. Less shipping due to the farm’s proximity to urban centres.

New sustainable environments. An urban centre can be self-reliant instead of captive to massive traditional farming infrastructure.

Provides the farms for traditionally difficult environments. For instance, vertical farms makes farming in the tropics, the Arctic, space, the moon, and other plants possible.

Downsides:

Expensive. The technology to do this is expensive and may not scale properly. Urban properties are expensive. Wages would be high.

No proof of concept. Because the environment of a vertical farm is so self-contained, and actual profitable proof-of-concept would be nice. But there isn’t one yet. So far we’re at space elevator with this.

Some technology isn’t ready. Lighting, recycling, and power generation (just off the top of my head) are not prime-time ready yet. Especially LEDs.

Requires a lot of electricity. There’s only so much sunlight you can reliably capture with a vertical farm. So you’ll have to rely a lot on artificial light. This is expensive. Depending where you live, it’s also environmentally harmful, as electricity may be generated using fossil fuels or coal.

All the infrastructure is elsewhere. Growing the food is only one part of the equation. The other part is processing the food. Only a small portion of what we eat isn’t processed. So not only would you have to move the farm into the city, but you’d have to move the processing plants into the city as well in order to keep the shipping down for truly local food. This presents its own sets of problems, such as scaling down existing processing infrastructure to go vertical, recycling waste products and waste water from processing plants, and dealing with the inevitable pollution issues.