- Vertical farming is a new technology that maximizes yield over a limited area by optimizing resources and space.
- Urbanization and population growth are driving the adoption of vertical farming in China and other parts of the world.
- Vertical farming can provide stable food supplies and fresh produce to urban areas while reducing logistics costs and promoting sustainability.
China, where urbanisation is rapidly accelerating, there is a growing need for new agricultural technologies to ensure a stable food supply for the city's expanding population. One such solution is vertical farming, a technique that optimises space and resources to maximise crop yields in a limited area.
Li Xinxu, the CEO of Beijing Cuihu Agricultural Technology Co, is one of many agricultural experts exploring the possibilities of this technique. His 120,000-square-yard greenhouse in northwestern Beijing uses vertical farming to grow cherry tomatoes up to 13 feet high on tiered shelves, using liquid nutrient solutions instead of soil.
Vertical farming was first proposed by Dickson Despommier, a professor of microbiology at Columbia University in New York, who envisioned a 30-storey skyscraper that could feed 50,000 people in downtown Manhattan. In China, abandoned garages and factories are ideal sites for vertical farms, with about 250 plant factories already using this technology.
The benefits of vertical farming are numerous. By growing produce indoors, plants can resist insects and soil-borne plant diseases. This method of hydroponic growing is also highly efficient, allowing for crops to be harvested up to 12 times a year, compared to once or twice a year in traditional field planting. Vertical farming also allows for the use of resources that are otherwise considered useless in the city, such as sewage and carbon dioxide.
Although large-scale commercial vertical farming is not yet well established in China, real estate companies, local governments, schools, and libraries have already collaborated with Beijing AgriGarden Protected Horticulture Technology Co on over 100 vertical farming projects. The company, established in 2002, uses seedling laboratories, vertical farming planting areas, ecological meeting rooms, and garden offices to grow crops like cucumbers and strawberries.
Wei Lingling, the CEO of Beijing AgriGarden Co, sees great potential for vertical farming in subway stations. By establishing small vertical farms in these locations, commuters can buy fresh vegetables and take them home directly, rather than purchasing produce that has been transported from markets several hundred miles away. This not only reduces logistics costs but also ensures that consumers have access to truly fresh vegetables.
As the world's population continues to rise, vertical farming is emerging as a promising solution for maximising crop yields in a limited area. In China, where urbanisation is rapidly increasing, agricultural experts are exploring ways to localise this technology and ensure a stable food supply for those living in cities.