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Is Verticle Farming Scalable?

Vertical farming is becoming more popular, as it offers a more sustainable method of food production in environments that aren’t ideal for growing plants. Vertical farming helps to produce different plants using hydroponics and special soil in "grow rooms" where they are vertically stacked and can grow in controlled conditions indoors.

With the growing world population, some experts believe that vertical farming could be a solution to our shrinking fertile land and significantly bolster our ability to produce high-quality and nutritious fruits and vegetables. We may also globally save on wastage costs and lost crops, as vertical farming is not affected by pests and harmful weather like traditional farming. 

However, despite these benefits, many are wondering: Is vertical farming really scalable? We believe that it is – and below, we're discussing how farmers can take advantage of its scalability and unique benefits year-round.

What is vertical farming?

Vertical farming is a method of food production that is distinguished by growing crops in stacked layers indoors to optimize the growing process. Vertical farming is ideal, because you can grow crops in any weather regardless of the season. This works since all elements of the growing process take place indoors in a controlled environment.

Food growers and producers can leverage farming via vertical farm structures in several different locations, including:

  • Buildings
  • Greenhouses
  • Shipping containers
  • Mine shafts
  • Indoor grow rooms

It's such an efficient solution that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) predicts that vertical farming could help to increase food production across the country. This comes at the perfect time, especially as our population is expected to grow significantly over the next several decades.

Farmers that can produce fresh fruits and vegetables year-round through scalable avenues such as vertical farming will be able to create a sustainable business and scale their food operations.

What are the advantages of vertical farming? 

Vertical farming was conceptualized in 1999, but is only now starting to rise in popularity due to concerns regarding shrinking available farmland and the effects of global warming. Farmers who embrace indoor growing for their crops with today's technological advancements will be able to scale their growing operations faster than those who rely on growing certain crops depending on the seasons.

Another advantage of vertical farming is that farmers can grow more crops in a smaller land area than traditional farming methods. By stacking crops in layers indoors, farmers can scale their operations with less required land than outdoor farming.

Vertical farming also allows farmers to grow a greater variety of crops since indoor growing means crops don't share the same land and resource demands during the growing process. Farmers looking to scale their growing operation with vertical farming experience additional advantages, such as:

  • More efficient water usage
  • Resilience in the face of shifting weather conditions
  • Highly efficient growing processes
  • Chemical- and pesticide-free growing 
  • Lower transportation costs
  • Higher overall crop yield and production

What are the challenges of vertical farming?

While vertical farming provides many advantages and allows farmers to scale their growing operations, there are some disadvantages that you should be aware of before you decide if vertical farming is the right choice for your business. 

High upfront costs

Vertical farming may come with high upfront costs. The overall price tag depends on the size of your vertical farming location and the total number of crops you plan to install per growing season. You'll also need to account for any learning curves and cost associated with experimentation and crop optimization prior to large-scale selling opportunities.  Taking the time to optimize your processes can help you to save on costs later. 

High cost of labor

Growers that use vertical farming often have many types of crops and need to use water and energy as efficiently as possible. If you choose to begin with a high number of crops, you'll need skilled workers to help tend to them. The complexity of vertical farming also requires higher associated management costs that may be too high for some farmers who don't have the capital needed to pay these skilled workers for their labor.

Emerging technology

While vertical farming isn't new, the technology is still being developed and is in its early stages. Farmers must put in plenty of time and resources to learn how to do vertical farming most effectively. However, farmers who embrace the new technology may benefit from being a "first mover" and reap the rewards of vertical agriculture before the rest of the growers catch up.

Not all plants can be grown with vertical farming

Vertical farming is best for certain crops, and may not be as viable of a solution for others. For example, foods like potatoes are so inexpensive that growing them with vertical farming methods may result in financial losses since farmers can't sell these crops at higher prices to make a profit.

Crops may have fewer nutrients

Crops grown with vertical farming methods may have fewer nutrients than crops grown with traditional farming methods. Plants raised outside produce substances that help them defend against pests and other harmful effects, while those raised indoors may not. However, there is a mixed benefit with this consideration, as you'll be able to enjoy a pesticide-free form of farming more conveniently while mitigating the risk of bug infestation as a result of no pesticide agents used. 

Is Vertical Farming Scalable?

Now that you know the pros and cons of vertical farming, you can decide if it's right for you and your food business. Vertical farming can scale easily if you have a large enough space and can cover the upfront costs associated with a vertical farming operation.

Visit our website to schedule a free demo and learn why farmers trust Inecta as their ERP food software provider. We look forward to connecting with you soon! 

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