Agricultural sector has seen and experienced great advancements. Agriculture being the most important service and a primary essential item for a living has grown over the years and has continued to introduce various technologies and systems to make the growth of crops more and more efficient with time.
The introduction of ‘Vertical Farming’ is one such advanced step that has been successfully tried and tested to check its efficiency in food production. This controlled system of cultivation is said to have produced considerably high amounts of product as compared to traditional ways of agriculture.
This technique of indoor farming is healthier, safer, produces more products for consumption, uses less soil and water resources, is controlled and adjustable needs less labor and effort requires lesser space, recycles and reuses resources, and adds to environmental conservation and so many other benefits.
This is a revolutionary new technique in the world of agriculture. This sustainably judicious way of indoor agriculture produces greater yield without many environmental compromises.
Vertical farming is a quintessential way of agriculture and assures profit in the business along with innumerable other benefits. This urban system of agriculture has also made its way to India and is of growing importance and demand.
What is Vertical Agriculture?
Vertical farming is a way of growing crops in an indoor setting with a controlled and adjustable environment. It is usually carried out in greenhouses and buildings devoted to this work.
As the name suggests, cultivation takes place in a vertical manner where crops are layered and stacked in rows and columns resembling skyscrapers. Plants are grown in optimum environmental conditions provided by the man in these indoor settings, inculcating controlled – environment agriculture.
Institutions which are using this form of modern agriculture depend on technology and operate various programs to suit the light, water, humidity, nutrition, etc. Ultraviolet rays and LED infused methods are also put to use to suit the plant’s light needs. Light settings are optimum as due to longer exposure to light through artificial sources, photosynthesis can be carried out for a longer period.
Vertical farming included the using of various soilless growing techniques. To achieve this end of farming without soil, farming systems like – Aeroponics, Hydroponics, aquaponics, etc. are put to use.
Adding a vertical cultivation system to facilitate agriculture not only requires less space but also produces increased crop yield per unit space. Several varieties of crops can be grown together at the same time, in the same environment as the crops do not share the same soil and thus can be provided with their necessary nutrient, temperature, light, and water requirements.
Crops grown in this method of farming is also less vulnerable to outdoor diseases, weather condition disruptions, weed, and pest damages, soil diseases, etc.
Along with being a great way to use lesser resources and leading to higher yield, this way of farming also reduces environmental harm. It saves water and soil in great amounts.
As this method is carried out indoors, therefore, natural habitats do not have to be cleared and more and more forests, flora, and fauna can be preserved.
Using techniques like hydroponics and Aeroponics also eliminate traditional ways of agriculture in a soil medium. Labor and effort are comparatively reduced, as activities like plowing, tilling, weed-picking, etc. are not required in vertical farming. It is also time-efficient.
All in all, this system of urban agriculture is a sustainable one with various benefits in this advanced era and has proven to entirely revolutionize the world of farming.
Advantages of Vertical Farming:
Let us look into a detailed list of benefits that this modern technique of Vertical farming provides to the agriculture, environment, consumers as well as the economy:
1. Crop production through Vertical Farming can be carried out throughout the year. As the plantation takes place indoors, weather or climatic conditions do not have harsh effects on the crops being grown.
The environment and climatic conditions are adjusted inside the system building or greenhouse as per the requirements of the crop to be grown. Thus such conditions can be artificially created which are favored by seasonal crops and these seasonal crops can be grown all year round.
2. Adverse weather conditions like floods, droughts, and winds can also be prevented in this controlled growth environment. Also, weeds can be reduced when this technique is being used.
3. Production and crop yield has seen an enormous increase due to the use of such efficient farming techniques. It has been observed that through this advanced technique crop yield has grown to almost 75 times the amount of food per square foot that used to be produced using regular methods of farming in the soil.
Therefore, it is efficient and feeds more of the population. The entire process of crop production is also quicker than when grown through traditional methods. With a growing population day by day, this technique can overcome food production and shortage crisis.
4. This method of growing plants is vertically arranged stacks that promote efficient use of space. Land required for growing crops needs to have various criteria for the crop to grow satisfactorily.
Indoor systems can be made in any location. Places that do not have proper soil conditions or water availability can make use of this soilless medium of agriculture.
It utilizes less amount of land and produces comparatively large amounts of agricultural produce. Also as it doesn’t require soil or land to grow crops, thus forests or other land resources do not have to be cleared for agricultural and commercial cop growing.
5. Vertical farming techniques that include hydroculture, Aeroponics, hydroponics, etc. require minimal quantities of water. Hydroponics based farming requires only 10% of water compared to irrigation required for cultivation in a soil-based medium.
The water than is drained out and is excess is recycled and reused. This also promotes water conservation and less wastage.
6. This technique of agriculture makes use of fewer fertilizers and chemical pesticides. Due to well-managed systems of growth, a suitable environment, and reduced exposure to soil, pest infestations and fungal diseases are considerably low. Thus there is a decrease in the role of pesticides.
Nutrients are directly transported to the roots of the plants and they do not have to search through the soil for nutrients, thus fertilizers are not highly necessary.
This way of agriculture results in a less chemically exposed product. Therefore there is a more organic and naturally healthy and clean food.
7. Environmental conditions are also greatly taken care of due to the introduction of such a setting. Vertical farming does not disturb the Mother Nature and her lands. Water used is less leading to saving water resources. As forests do not have to be converted into agricultural land, natural habitats and shelter, as well as food sources for animals and life in the forest, isn’t hampered. Lesser fossil fuel is spent as heavy machinery used in farms for various procedures aren’t required. All in all, vertical farming is very environment-friendly.
8. The delivery process after the traditional way of farming is often very expensive. Delivery plays an important part to transport food items from the farm to cities, states, and countries where there aren’t suitable conditions to cultivate various crops. Indoor vertical farming overcomes this obstacle too.
Growing crops has been made feasible in unfavorable locations too through vertical farming. This ensures faster transport of food from producers to consumers and also cuts down on the costs of transport. The importing of food items from other nations can be reduced.
In the bigger picture, it saves fuel and cost of fuel as well as it also helps in the reduction of carbon footprint. Delivery is quick, efficient, and fresher.
9. Labor and fieldwork are lesser when it comes to vertical farming. High-intensity farm work including tilling the soil, plowing, picking of weeds, and other manually conducted jobs aren’t required in a soilless medium of cultivation. Advanced machinery, technology, and newer systems do such manual tasks equally efficiently.
This reduces the labor cost included in production. The environmental setting for this indoor agricultural system is also safe for the staff and reduces hazardous injuries and risks which are common in agricultural fields.
Ultimately this form of agriculture has various benefits and promotes sustainable urban growth of agriculture in the commercial and economic domain without compromising on production, environment as well as human health.
Drawbacks of Vertical Farming method:
All of the above-mentioned boons of inculcating this advanced method of agriculture although seems to outgrow the banes of it, but to ensure proper planning and promoting of this technique as a profitable business and commerce, the following occurring hindrances must also be kept in mind:
1. The power supply is a primary factor in regulating all systems and settings required in vertical farming. All automated systems and advanced machines run on electricity.
Thus, power supply becomes a major expense of the institution. Disturbances and interruptions in the supply of electricity are risky and can be of great economic and production-based damage.
There is increased use of fossil fuels. This is a great element to be kept in mind and alternate and more renewable sources of energy must be utilized.
2. The requirement for advanced technologies and indoor settlements to begin this endeavor of Vertical farming is an expensive investment. The cost of starting this system of vertical farming is way more than carrying out farming through regular agricultural methods.
There are a lot of economic challenges and issues which come along to begin and maintain this system of advanced agriculture. It requires high research, capital, technology, etc.
3. This advancement in the primary sector of the economy creates employment problems as well. Large-scale and small-scale cultivators face extreme competition hampering their business and market.
Many laborers and farmers lose their jobs and ultimate sources of income as the advancing technologies seem to replace them. Many traditional and rural communities that follow farming through ancestral times face difficulties and suffer at the hands of growing technology. A lot of tasks also require manual effort and they seem to suffer.
4. Pollination which is required for better plant growth and propagation is hampered in Vertical farming. Insects that are responsible for pollination cannot be usually induced in this setting.
5. More use of power and technology also produces more waste such as chemicals and gases which are harmful to the environment.
Creating a suitable condition with maintained lights, water, humidity, etc. is a big task and requires fossil fuels and coal in a large amount. These energy sources also let out residues which harm the environment.
Is it viable in India?
Vertical farming which makes use of various scientifically advanced systems of farming in the modern world like Hydroculture, Aeroponics, Hydroponics, etc. is a way of growing crops in vertical stacks in rows and columns.
This arrangement resembling a building or skyscraper is a recommended way of agriculture in the urban day as it increases the agricultural yield in a comparatively lesser amount of space.
The water and land requirements to grow a specific quantity of crops are low as compared to older and traditional methods of agriculture.
With growing technology and global advancements, India which is a primarily agricultural country must not lag. India must pace up to the changes and technological developments which would uplift its global position as well as be useful to its residents and their needs.
This venture of Vertical Farming meets the need for technological advancements in the country as well as suits the growing demands of the nation.
It supports commerce, agriculture as well as the environment in a sustainable and judicious manner.
With the diverse land resources, climate and water availability in the country, vertical farming can be a very helpful technique to overcome these challenging requirements throughout India.
The innumerable advantages of vertical farming like higher yield, lesser time, better quality and organic vegetation, lesser consumption of water, environmental benefits, reduced costs in transport, decrease in carbon footprint etc. tends to outgrow the flaws of it.
Although expensive, when once invested, this sector of agriculture combined with business has a lot of good to offer.
Many business enthusiasts and companies have already step foot in this newer and better way of agriculture which is set to revolutionize the industry. Thus, vertical farming is a sustainable and long-term profitable investment which is the way of the urban growing world.