By 2050, the human population is expected to reach 9.7 billion people, with almost 70% living in cities. Vertical farming is having something of a moment, arguing that it is the answer to feeding urban masses fresh, local food, as we transition further into a century facing huge population growth and sustainable resource consumption issues. A professor from Columbia University named, Dickenson Despommier, coined the idea behind vertical farming as to grow food ‘vertically’ in unused urban spaces, using a hydroponic or aeroponic system. For the purpose of this report, Vertical farming will provide a local food source within cities, office buildings and even outer space where astronauts seek to grow food in soil, on a significant scale, at minimal restraint.
Given the need for a rise in agricultural production and resource efficiency the demand for solution is now. The structure of a hydroponic vertical farm is as follows, “a building filled with countless levels of hydroponic systems (or nutrient film style planters), growing different crops in an indoor, controlled temperature environment.” (Braden Bills). One of the greatest advantages of indoor hydroponic farming is its very high crop yield. Compared to the traditionally grown tomatoes, hydroponically grown tomatoes in a greenhouse yield nearly six times the tomatoes per square meter. With an even greater gap can be seen with leafy greens, where the yield was over twelve times more than traditional farming. (Brand). The largest vertical farm today currently operates in Dubi. For a city that ‘imports nearly 85% of their food, this would greatly change the way the city enjoys their next meal. The hydroponic farm produces almost 6,000 lbs. of food per day operating on about 1/2500th of the water needed in comparison to the conventional method of surrounding areas.’ (Harvard). Although a major skepticism to Hydroponics is, “only affluent areas will only be able to afford this kind of technology, thus leading to food deserts in marginalized areas also contributing to environmental racism. The local efforts in policy and campaigns with private funding from companies with infrastructure in Hydroponics will balance the affluent areas. Thus, with stations as such across the world, the support the new technology of hydroponic vertical farming will create a sustainable transition now and for future generations to follow.
Additionally, hydroponic vertical farming is being used in space and will continue to be a necessary resource for the future of space travel. These astronauts from NASA are working aboard the international space station with assistance from, VEGGIE; Veggie’s purpose is to help NASA study plant growth in microgravity, while adding fresh food to the astronauts’ diet and enhancing happiness and well-being on the orbiting laboratory. (Kristine).
The collapsible and expandable Veggie unit (hydroponic system) features a flat panel light bank that incudes red, blue and green LEDs for plant growth and crew observation. Leafy- greens such as red-romaine lettuce has been successfully cultivated from seed to consumption and on May 14 2015 the first pillows were activated, watered and cared for by Expedition 39 flight engineer Steve Swanson. After 33 days of growth, the plants were harvested and returned to Earth in October 2014.
An extremely quick growing process due to the technologies of hydroponic systems. In the absence of gravity, plants use other environmental factors, such as light, to orientate or guide them through growth. Because plants reflect a lot of green light and use more red and blue wavelengths, the chamber typically glows magenta pink. Afterwards the plants underwent food safety analysis. The second Veg-01 plant pillows were activated by Kelly on July 8 and grew again for 33 days before being harvested. (Kristine). But why is Veggie really aboard the International space station? With respect to this article, and according to NASA, the Veggie technology aboard the space station, is to provide future pioneers with a sustainable food supplement – a critical part of NASA’s Journey to Mars. As NASA moves toward long-duration exploration missions farther into the solar system, Veggie will be a resource for crew food growth and consumption.
For we, as humans, our earth is running out of space and time. Cities continue to grow, populations rise, and consumption never ends. We must prioritize and sustain hydroponic farming technology on earth and in space. Private investments will lower the upfront costs to local cities and allow for more hydroponic stations across the world. Hydroponics is the solution to reshaping for a sustainable future on the planet we all call, home.
Genetics, Brand. “Hydroponics, Aquaponics and Vertical Farming Systems… What We’ve Been Reading This Week at Brand Genetics.” Brand Genetics, 19 Nov. 2019, brandgenetics.com/hydroponics-aquaponics-and-vertical-farming-systems-what-weve-been-reading-this-week-at-brand-genetics/.
Rainey, Kristine. Crew Members Sample Leafy Greens Grown on Space Station. 7 Aug. 2015, www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/news/meals_ready_to_eat.
Braden Bills, et al. “Hydroponics: The Power of Water to Grow Food.” Science in the News, 4 Oct. 2019, sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2019/hydroponics-the-power-of-water-to-grow-food/.
Urban Skyfarm: Vertical Hydroponic Farm and Community Hub Offers Food Security for the Future. inhabitat.com/urban-skyfarm-vertical-hydroponic-farm-and-community-hub-offers-food-security-for-the-future/.
“NASA GeneLab.” NASA, NASA, genelab.nasa.gov/.