Farming organically or naturally grown foods is something that has been increasing in popularity for more than a decade. The only issue with the process of farming and growing foods organically is that isn’t the most economical way to grow food, which tends to lead to higher prices
Vertical farming is a really effective and interesting solution that companies are starting to grow foods in mass quantities, in controlled environments. Aerofarms is a company that is using vertical farming to grow large quantities of leafy greens in stacked rows, from the floor to the ceiling of large, open warehouses and buildings. The amazing part of their growing process is that all of this is done without soil, in natural lighting, and takes about half the time of traditional farming.
Aerofarms is also able to keep their prices around market pricing, which is around $3.99 for five ounces. The great news is that vertical farming companies are starting to pop up all over the United States, so these foods are becoming more widely available. The statistics themselves of what Aerofarms is able to produce is pretty incredible.
– 95 percent less water used to get the greens to full growth
– 50 percent less fertilizer used vs. standard outdoor farms
– They can grow in 16 days, what most people can grow in 30
The great thing about growing these plants indoors is that there is virtually no risk of weather conditions or seed contaminations ruining the crop. They also have much lower costs in transportation and don’t have near as much spoilage because they are supplying local markets and restaurants.
Aerofarms grows their plants aeroponically, as they call it, which includes a spraying the plants with a nutrient dense mist. The plants grow in a reusable cloth that’s made of recycled plastic bottles.
Green Sense, another vertical farming company out of Indiana, is using a modified hydroponic process that is different from that of Aerofarms. They pump nutrient dense water into tubs filled with ground up coconut husks, where the plants are planted. Then the water drains out at the bottom of the bins to be pumped over the plants again later. Green Sense has a 32,000 square foot warehouse that supplies Whole Foods and other markets in the Chicago area.
There are so many advantages to vertical farming that include
– Conserving water
– Reducing emissions
– Reusing nutrients
– Reducing our overall environmental footprint
Up until recently, vertical farming wasn’t a wise economic option, and in a lot of ways it is still difficult to justify because of the startup costs, build out, and ongoing energy costs. At this point, these companies are also limited to what they grow because of the limited scope of the process.
The upsides of this process of farming is that it is becoming cheaper with new innovations in technology, and that with each month of running a vertical farm, these companies are refining their process to be more efficient and effective while reducing costs.
For instance, they are making findings that using a combination of red and blue lighting from the LEDs increase the rate of photosynthesis, and are cheaper to run than your standard yellow lights.
Aerofarms is currently studying around 10,000 data points every month so that they can track their processes and make their farm more affordable and efficient.