Vertical Farming - Agriculture of the Future


Vertical farming is the method of growing plants and crops over each other, mostly in buildings with many storeys. They often look like skyscrapers with glass around them, similar to a giant greenhouse. Such farming methods can already be seen in cities. For agriculture experts vertical farming will be in widespread use in the future because the world’s population is growing constantly and there is more need for farming land.

The idea comes from Dickson Despommier, a professor at Columbia University, who in 1999, developed a method of growing food in city skyscrapers that could be as tall as thirty storeys. Today, such projects are carried out in many countries, for example Korea, Japan, Abu Dhabi and Singapore.

Vertical farming offers many advantages. Crops can be grown on a smaller area of land, water can be recycled and used over and over again. Plants grow on minerals and do not need soil.  Many farming products can be harvested more than once per year. With some fruits, like strawberries, up to 30 harvests would be possible.


This new form of farming can also help nature and the environment recover from mistakes humans make when farming. Many resources could be saved, forests could be preserved and desertification limited. Burning less fossil fuels would result in fewer emissions, a reduction of global warming and healthier environments. Especially tropical regions with their high risk of getting diseases like malaria would benefit.

Vertical farming can protect crops from bad weather or disasters like hurricanes, storms, droughts or floods. The same weather conditions all year round provide ideal conditions for perfect crops.

With traditional farming, 30% of all food does not find its way to the consumer, either because it becomes spoilt during transport or is infested with bacteria. Vertical farming produces food where it is needed.

On the other side, building such vertical farms can prove to be a costly undertaking.  During the beginning of such a project a lot of energy is needed. Because plants require large amounts of sunlight buildings need to be provided with artificial sunlight the whole year. But compared to traditional farms that take up a lot of space vertical farming has a low carbon footprint. It can do without fossil fuels because it relies on energy from the sun. Overall transportation costs are lower because products are consumed in the cities in which they are produced. This could be extremely cost effective because trends show that more and more people are moving to cities. By the middle of the 21st century about 80% of the world’s population will be living in urban areas.


Critics are not sure whether vertical farming projects can really be profitable in the long term. They claim that initial costs are too high and suggest that such farms actually need more light and power than in normal regions. Heating and cooling costs would also be enormous.

They also say that not all crops can be grown in this way. Wheat and maize, for example, among the world’s most important food source, would be almost impossible to grow because they are too large and heavy. Such farming methods could only apply for lightweight produce, like small fruits, lettuce and other vegetables.



Related Topics




  • actually = really
  • advantage = the good side of something
  • agriculture = farming
  • amount = sum
  • apply = work with
  • artificial = made by man
  • bacteria = very small living things, some of which cause illnesses
  • benefit = help, do good to something
  • carbon footprint = the total amount of greenhouse gases that you produce in a certain time
  • century = a period of a hundred years
  • claim = to say that something is true
  • compare to = if you look at two things side by side
  • constantly = always , all the time
  • consume = use
  • consumer = a person who buys things in a store
  • cost effective = here: cheap
  • costly undertaking = here: a project that needs a lot of money
  • critic = person who is very sceptical about a topic
  • crop = a plant, such as wheat or rice, which is grown by farmers and used as food
  • desertification = the process in which farming land is changed into deserts
  • develop = create
  • disaster = a sudden event, like a flood or an earthquake, which can cause great damage
  • disease = illness
  • drought = long period of dry weather, when there is not enough water for plants and animals to live
  • enormous = very large
  • environment = the world around us
  • especially = above all
  • food source = place where food comes from
  • fossil fuel = coal, oil, wood or gas; forms of energy that have been produced over millions of years from dead plants and animals
  • greenhouse = glass building used for growing plants; light gets in and is turned into heat
  • harvest = to gather crops from the field
  • infest = fill with
  • initial = at the beginning
  • lettuce = round vegetable with green leaves that are eaten raw in salads
  • lightweight = not heavy
  • limit = control
  • long term = not soon, but in the course of a longer time period
  • maize = corn; tall plant with yellow seeds on a cob; it can be cooked or eaten as a vegetable
  • overall = general, complete
  • preserve = conserve, keep
  • produce = food types, crops
  • profitable= money-making
  • protect = guard , care for
  • provide = offer, give
  • recycle = to use again
  • reduction = something becomes less; to lower
  • rely = depend on
  • require = need
  • resource = something that is useful to us , like minerals or water, which exist in a country and can be used to make it richer
  • result in = lead to
  • similar = like
  • skyscraper = very tall modern building in a city
  • soil = top layer of earth on which plants grow
  • spoil-spoilt = here: food becomes bad, so that you cannot eat it any more
  • storey =  floor or level of a building
  • suggest = advise, recommend
  • traditional = old fashioned , normal, usual
  • urban = city
  • wheat = plant that white bread is made from
  • whether = if
  • widespread use = here: used very much