Vertical farming as a sustainable agriculture alternative

The newest model of farming is bringing a revolution in the agriculture sector and transforming the ways of farm operations and our food habits, writes Dr Shivendra Bajaj

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About Author: Dr Shivendra Bajaj, Executive Director, Federation of Seed Industry of India and Alliance for Agri Innovation.

Globally responsible companies and multilateral organizations are intensely pushing for sustainable means of agriculture as it can help humans to meet their needs without harming the environment. With the unpredictable weather conditions posed by climate change, the pre-existing issues such as pollution, crop failure and depleting natural resources have aggravated. In such a scenario, vertical farming has emerged as a sustainable alternative to conventional agriculture as vertical farming is usually done indoors, it is soilless farming, hence, the risk of contamination through pests is negligible.
Vertical farming is considered the future of farming as it needs less space and the growing system is hydroponics, aeroponics and aquaponics. The major advantage of this farming is that it requires very less land in comparison to conventional agriculture, consumption of water is 80% less, moreover the water is recycled and saved and most importantly its productivity does not depend on weather conditions.
Vertical farming allows consumers to access fresh vegetables or fruits soon after they are harvested. Moreover, any farm commodity can be grown round the year since vertical farming allows control of environment conditions. Even exotic farm items can be produced easily. Food traceability is an important factor associated with vertical farming as food safety starts with traceability.  Consumers, food processors, regulators can easily find the source of vegetables and other farm produce. They can even check on the quality of seeds, crop inputs that are used to grow these vegetables as it will bring transparency to the supply chain.
Another major benefit is that local production especially in the urban setting will help to reduce carbon emissions which is released during transportation as trucks are laced with cooling facilities and more fuel is used for longer distances. Also due to the less distance between farm to table, it  reduces agricultural wastage by a big margin.
Major companies like Walmart, McDonald’s are investing in vertical farming to achieve sustainability targets. It allows them to provide fresh and quality products to customers as well as achieve sustainability in the business. The newest model of farming is bringing a revolution in the agriculture sector and transforming the ways of farm operations and our food habits. Vertical farming holds huge potential for entrepreneurs to bring innovations and create employment opportunities. Now advanced technology such as smart cameras, artificial intelligence, sensors are being used in vertical farming.
Entrepreneurs must exploit this opportunity since indoor farming will be a major trend due to demand for safe, fresh and local food. The government too is encouraging vertical farming and has extended subsidies for setting up vertical farms. Vertical farming ensures a fairly stable crop yield. It is easier to make long term agreements with grocery stores as vertical gardening will stabilise crop income and revenue streams. All this makes vertical farming ideal start-up platforms for scalable growth. This will help create employment opportunities in urban agriculture as well as help protect the environment.