Vertical Farms: the pros and cons
Vertical farms, like it says on the tin, are farms where produce is laid out in stacks going up rather than the traditional sprawling fields. They often resemble greenhouses and may be placed on a roof or another non-traditional space. By utilizing cutting-edge indoor farming techniques and controlled-environment agriculture (CEA), these new farms could revolutionize the way we think about how we farm and the steps we take moving forward to a more sustainable future.
However, as with all new developments comes the negative side of things. In the hopes of providing a balanced look at vertical farms, here are a few of the main pros and cons we’re seeing right now.
Vertical farming and CEA is widely promoted as an ‘upgrade’ to traditional agriculture, with the potential to address many challenges facing Canada and the rest of the world today. One major aspect is climate change; having a controlled environment to produce in can mitigate the effects of raising global temperatures and address food insecurities related to increasing population over time thanks to their guaranteed output.
Vertical farms placed on rooftops use the sun for their lighting needs, which generally makes them more sustainable and energy-efficient than regular farms. Soil-based CEA farms, on the other hand, are not quite as sustainable but can still show their benefits through automating many menial tasks and cutting down on stormwater runoff. Whichever type of vertical farm we’re talking about, studies show that they will typically use significantly less water, pesticide and fertiliser than other solutions.
While vertical farming has many benefits, one of the biggest negative factors is the increased cost of energy associated with more efficiency and control. CEA farms, whether private or commercial, make great use of the latest agritech to monitor their mini environments through data and automation. This is great for produce, but those costs can mount up fast.
One big energy drain is the lighting problem; while rooftop CEA farms may use the sun, farms placed in different environments such as on the ground may not receive enough light to function and thus rely on inefficient LEDs. These LEDs can really increase your energy bill, even when compared to traditional farms using similar technology.
The best way to combat this challenge is through a system that can monitor your energy use and predict further maintenance costs – thus helping you save big. Rakr’s NeatMeter and our corresponding app are designed to mix data and localised machine learning to help you make the most of your vertical farm or traditional agricultural space. With those worries out of the way, there’s nothing to hold you back.
In the end, vertical farms are likely to solve many problems that face our agricultural sector in Canada and the rest of the world, helping us to keep up exports in the wake of significant changes to the global economy and environment. While they do come with their own set of cons, tapping into resources like the NeatMeter can make it all run smoothly.