Vertical Farming and Sustainability

To what extent can Vertical Farming practices contribute to making our society more sustainable?

There is no way around it, to ensure the wellbeing of future generations, we need to work together to build a resilient and healthy planet. In 2015, 193 countries around the globe embraced the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that includes the 17 Sustainable Goals. These 17 Sustainable Goals address a large variety of social and environmental issues from protecting the environment to eliminating hunger and inequalities.

Vertical Farming is a revolutionary idea that can help human society move towards a more fair and sustainable world, if implemented in the right way. The intention of this post is to start an open discussion about possible positive effects that Vertical Farming practices can have on achieving some of these 17 Sustainable Goals.

ZERO HUNGER

The increasing frequency of natural disasters and the rising global temperature are putting outdoor agriculture productivity at risk. This creates serious problems for a lot of people around the world. Vertical farming can contribute to reduce hunger in the future by ensuring a stable and constant supply of food that is not weather-dependent.

Know more on how smart use of technology can contribute to produce food and stimulate biodiversity also in extreme environments.

 

GOOD HEALTH AND WELL-BEING

We live in a world where over consumption and diet related problems are very common, above all in developed countries. Vertical Farming can contribute to the establishment of healthy eating habits by providing a huge range of fresh, nutritious and chemical-free food. A healthy planet means healthy people.

Example of how Vertical Farming can produce more nutritious food.

 

QUALITY EDUCATION

Education is one of the most important requisites for a sustainable world. Education is empowerment. In this context, Vertical Farms can act as educational and social centers within a community by providing a variety of social activities and initiatives to the public. This would help in the establishment of more conscious communities with a high level of social cohesion.

The Chocolate Factory is an extraordinary example of vertical farming practices where recreation and education are the main key features.

 

CLEAN WATER & SANITATION

The Vertical Farming concept can actively contribute to more clean water. Every year, a huge amount of wastewater is produced by cities. Vertical Farms provide the opportunity to clean municipal and industrial wastewater by using plants, mushrooms and bacteria as bio-filters. In an urban environment, Vertical Farms could be used to treat separated wastewater streams and recover precious resources.

Learn more about the living machine concept.

 

AFFORDABLE AND CLEAN ENERGY

Vertical farming practices are highly compatible with the implementation of renewable energy systems. For instance, biomass leftovers produced within a Vertical Farm can be used to produce clean energy throughout fermentation of organic matter in anaerobic digesters. What’s more, Vertical Farms can be used to host solar collectors or micro wind turbines which can be used to produce clean energy for internal operations as well as feeding the local electricity grid.

Click here to learn more about the anaerobic digestion process.

 

RESPONSIBLE CONSUMPTION & PRODUCTION

Establishing food systems that are responsible from both a consumption and production perspective requires a paradigm shift in the way we live and do the things. Vertical Farming practices can help achieve responsible food production by converting the linear food chain into a more circular and efficient one. Furthermore, by showing the production processes to the public, people will be more engaged in becoming responsible consumers.

A an example of how vertical farming practices can help to enhance responsible production models is The Plant, a vertical farm in Chicago where no waste are generated and where all the flows of materials and energy are re-used within the farm or placed at the service of the surrounding community.

SUSTAINABLE CITIES AND COMMUNITIES

Cities are the largest importers of food, but barely any food is produced in today’s cities. By increasing their internal food supply, Vertical Farming practices can help cities to reduce their negative impact on the environment and become more sustainable and self-sufficient.

Two brothers in UK have started their own restaurant in which they sell only the food they produce inside the restaurant’s walls.

 

CLIMATE ACTION

Climate change is one of the major risks for human society. Intensive agriculture practices contribute to climate change in several ways, from the use of fossil fuels for agricultural machineries and fertilizer production to emissions of greenhouse gases from soil management. Vertical Farming can help to build agricultural systems which are carbon positive and fossil fuel-free.

Watch this video to know more about greenhouse gas emissions from traditional agriculture.

 

LIFE BELOW WATER

Emissions of pesticides and fertilizers from agricultural soils are one of the causes of the destruction of life below water. These chemicals accumulate in the water causing eutrophication and the alteration of aquatic ecosystems. By adopting a closed-loop system, Vertical Farms do not contaminate water, therefore help safeguard aquatic biodiversity.

For instance, researches have proven that the massive use of pesticides on agricultural land isthe main cause of the global decline of amphibians.

 

LIFE ON LAND

The excessive adoption of monoculture practices as well as the increasing need for arable land to feed a growing human population are putting in serious danger many animal species across the globe. By creating more self-sufficient cities, intensive agricultural practices can be turned into more eco-friendly agricultural activities (like agro-forestry, permaculture, etc,..) that will promote an increase in land biodiversity. Additionally, vertical farms can contribute to create urban ecosystems that will attract animal life into cities and therefore increase urban biodiversity.

Many research is currently carried out in order to show the positive influence ofurban agriculture practices on urban biodiversity. Read this article to know more.

In a nutshell, it is evident that Vertical Farming will have a massive impact on our society and will change the way we produce and experience food. However, it is important for us to agree on the fact that we do not have to commit the same errors we made in previous Intellectual Revolutions. The scaling up of a technology into society might generate negative effects on humans that are hardly visible in the initial developmental phases of the technology. Therefore, the large scale implementation of technologies should always be supported by a deep analysis of the societal context in which the technology will be introduced.

To really generate a positive impact on human society, Vertical Farming practices must  embrace the Sustainable Development Goals.

Do you agree with these visions?

Do you think Vertical Farming practices might have a positive impact also on other Sustainable Goals?

Leave a comment and let’s the discussion begin!

Do you want to know more about the Sustainable Goals?

  • Zjef Van Acker

    I completely agree man! Vertical Farming can really have a beautiful impact on our human society!