Vertical farming is advancement in the developing age of agriculture. With more demands made by the growing population and an ever-advancing marketing system, a sector as important as agriculture must not be lagging.
To bridge the gap between traditional methods of farming and the developing technical changes all around the world, growing crops has also witnessed advancements.
Vertical farming is a very quick and efficient method of cultivation which helps growers to carry out agriculture in indoor settings with urban methods of systematic and automated environment control.
Vertical farming is a growing venture in many countries all around the globe. India is one such nation where the advancements in the agricultural sector can be a major developmental element.
Commencing this venture is without a doubt a beneficial task, but the risks in this investment must also be kept in check in order to establish a profitable and continuous supply of products through such systems.
What is Vertical Farming?
Vertical farming is a method of growing crops in a controlled environment situation. Vertical farming, as the name suggests, is a way of growing crops in a vertical structure where the plants are stacked up in rows and columns.
The structure appears to be like that of tall buildings and skyscrapers. This helps in growing more crops in a lesser area of land.
Compared to traditional ways of farming in the soil, vertical farming is a lot more efficient in terms of production as well as environmental friendliness.
Vertical farms make use of various automated machinery which make the task of agriculture more technical, advanced, and developed.
Techniques of modern farming such as Hydroponics, Aquaponics, Hydroculture, aeroponics, etc. are included to cultivate crops.
The method of growing crops in this way makes the entire process time-efficient, increases yield, produces high-quality and organic food makes use of less naturally occurring resources and contributes to the conservation of the environment.
Vertical Farming as a form of agriculture in India
Several global advancements like vertical farms in the agricultural domain make this traditional procedure of growing crops more viable and efficient.
With modern and technology-based systems, agriculture has become a developed commercial sector. With various other nations adopting this form of cultivation, India has also begun investing in this venture. It can bring about huge amounts of change in this primary field of service.
Investing in setting up indoor structures and greenhouses to carry out vertical farming can be an asset to the growers.
The initial risks of the business are worth it because, in the advancing world, vertical farming is the future of agriculture. Such advances would help India to rank up as well as provide well for its residents.
This sustainable and judicious way of agriculture can provide for the country’s growing needs and demands, and it also helps the commercial market in an environment-friendly way.
In India, vertical farming is still a new and uncommon system. Various firms have been trying this technique and have emerged with successful results.
The ICAR plans at researching and bringing up opportunities to set up vertical farming systems in metropolitan cities of India like Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai.
Some centers based in West Bengal’s Nadia, Punjab, etc. have put to use the hydroponic techniques and have successfully grown vegetables like tomatoes, eggplants and potatoes.
Various firms and startups based in Bangalore, Jaipur and Mumbai have come up with vertical farms and have successfully adopted this urban agricultural method. Some of these companies often help out other businesses in the same field and provide incentives to begin projects.
What is the investment required to establish a vertical farm in India?
Starting a vertical farming venture requires a lot of research and skill. Land, skilled workmen, commercial networks, capital, etc. are all necessary to be kept in mind.
When it comes to investments required in Vertical farms, it depends on several elements like the location that is selected, the type of agricultural system that is to be used, a variety of crops grown, type of machinery used, etc.
Small indoor gardens and firms using vertical farming techniques can start with lower capital investment. When it comes to setting up a large-scale system in India can cost up to lakhs of rupees.
City Greens, a Bangalore based startup with centers even in Ahmedabad researched, experimented, and arrived at an investment figure ranging between 28 Lakhs to 48 Lakhs to set up a hydroponic farm in a one-acre land area.
Other sources report that setting up vertical farms that utilize hydroponic growth systems can cost between 30 – 35 lakhs INR.
Low-tech and small-scale home or indoor garden setups can cost as low as ₹5000. With better systems, the capital needs can rise to ₹1 Lakh.
Aquaponics farms in India range from around ₹5 Lakh to ₹15 Lakh. Farms using aeroponic techniques and systems can require a capital investment higher than hydroponic systems.
Based on the various selections, locations, and systems of cultivation, this venture with highly modified systems can also go up to costs of ₹2.5 Cr. Banks and financial agencies do extend support and offer easy and beneficial loans that can help startups to make a beginning in the business.
The initial expenses and maintenance costs of vertical farms is considerably high, but with all the right systems, knowledge, and networks, this procedure can yield high-quality and increased quantities of product and can, in turn, bring immense profit to the business. These forms of artificial farming are the ones to survive shortly. Therefore, investment in Vertical agriculture in India is clearly a good asset.
Advantages of Vertical Farming
This advanced technique of agriculture is a truly remarkable one. Some advantages of vertical farming are listed below:
1. Growing crops in this method using Hydroponics has is very successful and profitable. Hydroponics produces crops about 30 – 50 percent faster than traditional methods of farming. All the controlled environmental settings facilitate healthy and quick growth of crops.
2. Vertical farms grow plants stacked on top of one another in a structural arrangement similar to buildings, less space is utilized efficiently.
Regular farms require soil as a medium to grow crops produce comparatively lesser quantities of crops in a field. Thus using vertical farming method increases production per square unit of space.
3. The crops when grown in an indoor setting, are provided with artificial light for growth using – UV lights, LEDs, etc. Growers have control over the period that the plants are exposed to light.
The crops are usually given light for longer durations. This aids the process of photosynthesis to continue for longer. As a result, the plants produce more food in lesser amounts of time leading to increased and quick yields for commercialization.
4. Techniques like hydroculture, hydroponics, and aquaponics, aeroponics, etc. are carried in indoor situations like in greenhouses and other factories or buildings.
The environment is totally under manual regulation and can be adjusted accordingly. Nutrients, light, temperature, moisture, etc. are manipulated and altered as per plant preferences creating better conditions for their growth. With situations in control, year-round crop production can be done even with seasonally occurring crops.
5. Due to the indoor agriculture, physical hindrances cannot affect plant growth. Factors like harsh weather, floods, droughts, pest infestations, fungal or microbial diseases, weeds etc. are prevented.
This creates a comfortable growth environment for the crops producing good-quality food. The plants are also less prone damage.
6. Vertical farms are at lesser risks of being infested on by pests or microbes; thus they do not need pesticides as much as the crops that grow outdoors in the soil. Along with that, all the requirements are efficiently provided by the growers and the plants grow comparatively well.
They also do not need too much of chemical fertilizers either. Thus the food produced is a lot more organic, clean, fresh and free from chemicals compared to food grown through traditional farming.
8. Growing crops using vertical farming in an indoor area or greenhouse does not depend upon the availability of fertile land resources.
Regions that do not have proper soil ability for plant growth can easily farm by setting up indoor vertical systems instead. This makes that particular region more self-reliant and also reduces import costs involved in importing food from other countries.
8. As vertical farming usually uses a soilless media for growing crops, natural lands do not have to be cleared for agricultural purposes.
Forests and natural habitats are less influenced. The land resources found in nature are unaffected and it also preserves the animal and plants life surviving in forests. Therefore, it makes a big contribution to save the environment.
9. Along with conserving land resources, techniques that are used in vertical farms also efficiently make use of water resources.
Hydroponic techniques utilize only 10 percent of the water compared to what regular farms require for irrigating their plants.
Also, the water put to use in these farms is continuously recycled and reused to ensure that less water is wasted and this conserves water in the environment.
10. Vertical farms also make further procedures more cost-efficient. As these farms can be located at any place and do not depend on the availability of fertile land locations, the farms are usually set close to market regions.
This helps in reducing the expenses involved in transportation. As transportation is comparatively minimal, it conserves fuel and also reduces the carbon footprint in the environment.
12. With the use of modern technology, automated systems, and electricity depended-machinery, manual labor is also less.
Tasks like plowing, tilling the fields, picking of weeds, etc. which are carried out by the man in traditional farming methods are eliminated in the method of growing crops through vertical farming. It makes the process time-efficient, less labor-intensive, and also reduced the cost of labor.
12. The method of growing crops without the use of soil is very efficient and has been also adopted by NASA to experiment agriculture in the space to provide food to astronauts. Hydroponics and aeroponics are of great help when it comes to such tasks.
Disadvantages of Vertical Farming
Along with the several benefits it has, this method of cultivation also has the following disadvantages:
1. All the methods used to carry out Vertical farming is highly dependent on electricity. System failures in machines, inefficient power supply, the expense of energy sources, etc. are great concerns for these firms. Obstructions in electric supply can affect the production process and often cause large-scale damage.
2. With the need for a continuous supply of electricity, Vertical farms use a great number of fossil fuels to get energy. Overuse of these fossil fuels is inefficient and there must be alternatives that are put to use to replace these natural and non-renewable resources of power.
3. With modern and advanced technology, comes the need for higher knowledge, research, and skills to carry out all the technical and developed machinery tasks. Skilled labor is also important to carry out these processes of crop production.
4. The residues and debris produced by vertical farms often give rise to a great deal of environmental pollution.
5. Setting up and running a vertical farm is not an easy task. It needs a lot of capital and is rather a very risky investment during the initial period. Maintaining and proper running of all the systems is all in all a costly undertaking.
6. With the commencement of newer, better, and automated urban agricultural methods, rural cultivators and traditional farmers face a lot of competition. Need for labor is also declining leading to the unemployment of many workers.
By now we know that the numerous benefits in growing crops in Vertical farms outnumber the disadvantages of this system. Although the cost of settling and maintaining this is high, but the long-term benefits of this agricultural system are clearly a viable one.
With the right investment and business plans, India can also adopt more sustainable vertical farms and can emerge among the top growers of food in today’s urban world.