What is Vertical Farming?

Vertical farming is a method of growing plants in vertically stacked layers. Most often it uses CEA – controlled environment agriculture technologies, which optimize plant growth, and uses various soilless farming techniques like hydroponics, aeroponics, fogponics, etc. Some common selections of structure to house vertical farming systems are old buildings, hangars, shipping containers, and abandoned tunnels.

Vertical Farming by Baltic Freya

The very first Vertical Farm

The oldest known precursor for a vertical farm was built around 2500 years ago. Today we refer to it as the Hanging Gardens. Legends describe them as an astonishing feat of engineering with an ascending tiered gardens. These gardens had a rich variety of herbs, flowers, vines, shrubs, and trees. They resembled a green, lush mountain constructed of bricks. This massive and intricate structure was built by the Babylonians and one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

The modern concept of Vertical Farming

In 1999, Dickson Despommier – professor at Columbia University, challenged his class to calculate how much food could be grown on rooftops of New York. The students speculated that around a 1000 people could be fed this way. Dissatisfied with the conclusion, the professor suggested growing plants indoors on multiple gardens, layered vertically, instead. The concept included artificial lighting, advanced water and nutrient delivery systems, other CEA technologies and theoretically could grow enough produce for 50 000 people. This skyscraper farm has not been built, but it popularized the idea of vertical farming.

CEA – Controlled Environment Agriculture

Pretty much all vertical farms built today utilize CEA – controlled environment agriculture, which is an advanced form of agriculture defined by modification, manipulation, and control of every environmental factor to extend growing season, increase crop yield, achieve desired plant properties, and optimize resource usage. Two crucial resources for any plant are water and nutrients, therefore most of vertical farms are classified by the types of systems, techniques, and technologies that they use for water and nutrient delivery for the plants.

What are vertical farming techniques – technology types?

Hydroponics

Hydroponics is a plant growing method when the roots of plants are submerged in liquid solution – water and nutrient mixture. Sometimes, solid mediums such as gravel, sand, and rockwool are used as substitutes for soil to provide support for the roots. Read more.

Aquaponics

Aquaponics is a plant growing method when the roots of plants are submerged in fish tanks. Within these closed-loop systems, plants receive all the required nutrients from fish waste and by taking it all up – clean the water for the fish. Read more.

Aeroponics

Aeroponics is a plant growing method when the roots of plants are hanging in water and nutrient aerosol generated by high pressure nozzles. This way the water, nutrient and oxygen take up for the plants is a lot easier which results in faster growth and more green mass. Read more.

Fogponics

Fogponics is a plant growing method when the roots of plants are hanging in water and nutrient aerosol – fog generated by ultrasonic vibrations of piezoceramic disks. This way the water, nutrient and oxygen take up for the plants is a lot easier which results in faster growth and more green mass. Read more.

Fogponics 2.0 – Baltic Freya

Fogponics 2.0 by Baltic Freya is a plant growing method when the roots of plants are hanging in water and nutrient aerosol – fog generated by Baltic Freya proprietary technology. This way the water, nutrient and oxygen take up for the plants is optimized which unlocks full plant potential. Baltic Freya proprietary fogponics 2.0 technology also solves the technological issues that aeroponic and fogponic technologies have. Read more.

Vertical Farming technology - Fogponics 2.0 by Baltic Freya

Vertical Farming advantages and disadvantages

Like any other technology or innovation, vertical farming also has its pros and cons. When it comes to advantages of vertical farming, most often people point out improved yields, drastically reduced water and fertilizer need, all year-round production, etc. Most discussed disadvantages of vertical farming are high energy consumption and high upfront cost. We would like to help you better understand, advantages and disadvantages of vertical farming, so click here to read more.

Why vertical farming is important?

Vertical farming is proud of some important advantages compared to regular farming practices. CEA allows farmers and food producers to extend growing season, increase crop yield, use less resources, prevent plant disease and pests without using any nasty chemicals, and reduce transportation by growing food next to or in the cities.

Is vertical farming profitable?

Short answer is – Vertical farming can be profitable. If it’s done properly. For the majority of vertical farms, the most significant problem preventing profit is energy use. Either artificial lighting or water and nutrient delivery systems, but energy efficiency is the key.

Is vertical farming organic?

Vertical farming can be organic. Organic farming is defined by the lack of inorganic fertilizers, minimal input of pest control chemicals and no harm done to biodiversity, agricultural soil and its biological cycles. Since vertical farming is done indoors, it doesn’t need vast areas of deforested land, therefore it doesn’t harm biodiversity, soil or the environmental biological cycles. Moreover, the indoor factor prevents pests, weeds, and other unwanted fauna from entering your farm, so there is no need for pesticides, herbicides or other nasty chemicals. Lastly, fertilizer is a farmer’s choice. If the farmer choses an organic fertilizer, the produce grown in her/his farm will be organic.

Is vertical farming sustainable?

Baltic Freya believes that food sustainability could be described as “a food system that ensures food security and nutrition at a level that can be maintained”. Therefore, vertical farming does stand as a more sustainable food production system compared to regular industrial farming practices which require deforested land, tons of fertilizers and water, nasty pest control chemicals, etc. Read more.

Vertical farming conclusion

Vertical farming is more sustainable, new, and innovative way of growing food and medicinal plants. Unlike regular industrial agricultural methods, vertical farming helps to yield more crops by using minimum resources. Even though vertical farming has it’s drawbacks, these are being solved by various startups and it does seem like vertical farming is an inevitable supplement to the future of agriculture.

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