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Vertical Farmers Are Coming to Your City

Over 4 billion people have joined the global population in the last 50 years, putting stress on available farmland, water and fertilizer. At the same time, the capacity of the planet to absorb farm waste – toxic farm runoff contaminating aquifers and rivers – has stretched the limit. Nearly 8 billion people now depend on 5.5 million square miles of water-guzzling farmland for their food.

Vertical farms, by contrast, look enticing. Depending on who you ask, and what crop you’re growing, they only require somewhere between 1 percent and 5 percent of the water required by outdoor farming. They also operate in a completely controlled environment, which eliminates the need for pesticides and herbicides.

They can be located anywhere. By siting them within urban areas, the transportation and refrigeration costs necessary to get the crops to market are largely eliminated. With all of these competitive advantages, why aren’t vertical farms sprouting up everywhere?

An interesting 2021 study published in the Rutgers Business Review attempts to quantify these cost variables to compare traditional farming to vertical farming. The authors found that vertical farming was at a huge disadvantage to traditional farming with respect to energy cost and labor cost, while enjoying a decisive advantage in terms of water cost. The analysis was an oversimplification, since these costs vary greatly depending on what crop is being compared, but overall it found vertical farming currently to run about 2.5 times more expensive per unit than traditional farming.

This cost disadvantage is […] Read More