As developing countries slowly modernize, a whole new set of challenges await them. One of those challenges is increased urbanization.
Urbanization is a symptom of modernity that is usually accompanied by a decrease in overall poverty.
As countries implement 21st century medical care and sanitation systems, populations have increased in well-being and life span, which can result in overpopulated cities. As cities become more and more populated, resources will become more scarce. This is especially true for food availability.
Luckily, a new brand of farming is coming to fruition that will help address the problems associated with increased urban populations; it’s called vertical farming.
Vertical farming removes the farms from traditional fields and places them in warehouses several stories high. This allows producers to place farms directly in the cities and away from the drought and disease that normally threatens reliable crop yields. Utilizing hydroponic water systems and LED lighting, the farms provide the ideal environment for plant growth. The LED lights further allow the farmers to dial in the specific spectrum of light ideal to that plant. Fluorescent lights were initially used but proved to be too inefficient.
As LED lights have become more cost effective, they have created the ideal environment for vertical farms. Farmers are even able to program the light to change throughout the day, mimicking the movement and intensity of the actual sun.
The efficiency of LED lights is not where it could be, however. Many farms currently use lights that operate at about 28% efficiency though engineers are developing LEDs that operate at 68% efficiency.
For example, in the Netherlands, engineers at Phillips have successfully created an LED that operates at 150% efficiency.
The beauty of vertical farms is their ability to be greener, more cost efficient and sustainable. Imagine a world where India has vast swaths of its cities dedicated to vertical farming; the amount of relief that could provide to impoverished individuals is staggering.
An example of vertical farming’s potential can be found in Scranton Pennsylvania. Soon, it will have the world’s largest vertical farm composed of a single story building with racks consisting of six levels. The farm will be able to house 17 million plants.
When one considers the challenges urbanization will bring to developing nations, vertical farming presents itself as a panacea.
The U.N. predicts that by the year 2050, there will be 6.25 billion people living in cities. As such, food production will have to increase 70% globally to sustain 2.3 billion people.
The U.N. also predicts that reliance on traditional, “resource-intensive” agricultural products will continue to grow, consisting mainly of livestock and dairy products.
Vertical farms present an opportunity for the world community to truly address hunger. With billions of people expected to occupy world cities in the coming decades, the demand for food will only increase. Vertical farms growing food locally, in a sustainable environment has a chance to provide food for millions who otherwise would go hungry.
– Zachary Lindberg