The sky is no longer the limit for farming

“I’m just a regular guy that has decided to risk it all on trying something completely new,”explains Mr. Martin Lavoo, a co-founder of Sustenir Agriculture.

He’s talking about his vertical farm.

It is a brand new building. It looks like a greenhouse from the outside but it’s four stories tall. It’s a clever design. It uses traditional growing systems throughout. It uses soil-based potted plants on a series of conveyor belts which migrates the plants by gravity - some kind of a grandfather clock-like apparatus which actually moves this conveyor belt of plants near the windows maybe once or twice an hour so that every plant gets the same amount of sunlight during the day. Because it rains every day there’s certainly no shortage of water for these plants either, and traditional fertilizer is used.

Vertical farming may well be the future of agriculture. Because if agriculture is to continue to feed the world, then it needs to become more like manufacturing. It is already beginning to happen, as I learned during the Side Event, “Urban food security in an urbanizing world: lessons from Singapore”, held as part of this week’s session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) in Rome.

Despite not having any significant primary food production resources, Singapore was ranked the world’s second-most food secure country after the United States by the Global Food Security Index in 2015. What can the world’s fastest growing cities, such as Jakarta, Lagos and Dares Salaam, learn from Singapore’s experience? Well, quite a bit as it turns out.

The amount of land seven billion people need to produce their food every year is about the size of South America. At present, throughout the world, more than 80% of the land that is suitable for raising crops is in use (sources: FAO and NASA). Traditional agriculture consumes cast amounts of water and wastes over 60% of the 2500 trillion liters it requires every year. That is 42% of world’s accessible water reserves wasted. With all this inefficiency how will we be able to feed next generation?

Now if the human population continues to increase over the next 40 years, you might have three billion more people to feed. About 70 percent of them will be in cities (compared to 49 percent today). According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, feeding this population will require a 70% increase in food production and will require vastly more land and water.

So the big question facing us is where will the food for the next three billion people come from?

That’s where vertical farming comes in.

 By a vertical farm I mean any building in which you can grow food that is taller than a single story.

There are many examples of vertical farms out there which are not towering gardens of Eden or as the images on Google might suggest. Most of those would satisfy the cover of any science fiction magazine I could think of and would attract a lot of attention. We are a long way from seeing those yet. I think they will be expensive and they will take a lot of rethinking with regards to urban planning.

The vertical farms I am talking about are like the Sustenir farm and they hold much promise for the future. Because by farming vertically indoors we can reduce the need for agricultural land and provide an efficient, reliable and clean alternative to food production in cities. This will radically reduce our carbon footprint, and our water usage.

Vertical farming is really the future of agriculture. It can solve the problem of how to feed our population in 2050. But what about generations to come?  Perhaps someone will appear to invent a new future.

Blogpost by Melano Dadalauri, #CFS43 Social Reporter – melano.dadalauri(at)yahoo.com
Photo: Lettuce grown in an indoor vertical farming system - Courtesy: Valcenteu on Wikipedia

This post is part of the live coverage during the 43rd Session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS). This post is written by one of our social reporters, and represents the author’s views only

 

21/10/2016 11:53

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