Vertical Farming as a Local Food Market Innovation

Sourced from the Washington Times

Vertical farming is an emerging niche in the food supply chain, defined as the practice of growing food indoors by controlling all elements of its development.

As vertical farms are stacked, multistory and typically aligned with large skyscrapers in densely populated urban areas, they can prompt mixed feelings about their aesthetics: Some observers believe they make urban areas feel green while others believe the structures will compete with their access to sunlight.

There are additional unique issues related to their role in food markets, the food environment and broader community impacts.

The nature of production

One potential benefit of vertical farming is its role in encouraging cities to become more self-reliant by producing at least some share of their food supplies. This may lead to more resiliency if there are natural or political events that disrupt our food distribution system. Plus, in an era of renewed interest in food-based economic development, a new generation of farmers may be attracted to vertical farming since their operations can be year-round and integrate high-tech solutions.

Still others see vertical farming as a potential innovation in real estate development — operations may be designed to be aesthetically pleasing, or, if rooftop development is used, permit buildings to conserve air-conditioning costs, and more broadly, help mitigate urban heat islands.

However, many potential benefits (eliminating food miles, reducing spoilage and food waste, better management of environmental implications from agricultural inputs) have yet to be evaluated.

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