The world has been developing quicker than ever and this also reflects on the population growth. By 2030, it is expected a growth of 16%, which means there will be approximately 8,5 billion people living worldwide! This means that there will be an increase of need for more resources, residences and, obviously, food!
Technology has been playing an important role on trying to solve social and economical impacts, with advanced softwares, machinery and innovation. When it comes to food production, vertical farming seems to have a promising future. Vertical farming is a way of producing food or crops stacked on top of one another, in an indoor environment. It is powered by LED-lit and is challenging the way people think about producing food.
According to Ashley Thompson and John Leslie, owners of the Vertical Farm System from Queensland, one of the benefits of the indoor production is that it allows seeds to fully grow in just 28 days. Furthermore, it can operate anywhere and is invincible against pests, pathogens and poor weather. For example, Canada nowadays imports 95% of its salads and greens from South America or California. With a vertical farm, there is no reason they can’t produce it locally.
But just like most new technologies, it is expensive! According to models compiled for Civil Eats by Agritecture, the vertical farm operations costs an average of U$27 per square foot in equipment and energy to function. This cost is three times more expensive than a greenhouse production, for example. This means that the final price is also compromised:
Example: Kale (1 pound = aprox. 450 grams)
Conventional production – U$1.33/ pound
Organic – U$4.99/ pound
Vertical farmed – U$14.18/ pound
It has been noticed by the small number of sales of these products on markets in the USA that the end consumer is not willing to pay more than 10 times more for the same product. Additionally, the product was perceived as less natural by a group of 117 participants. These are the biggest challenges of the new system and seems like there is still a decent run on figuring out on how to overcome them.
However, Dubai is getting the world’s largest vertical farm to produce for the largest international airport in the world. According to Sonia Lo, Crop One’s CEO, airlines tend to have a more reliable demand than grocers, presenting more predictable volume and price, which will help the vertical farm to put up with its costs.
The construction of the 130,000 square foot vertical farm will start in November 2018 and will be able to produce 6,000 pounds of crops daily. By 2020, Emirates Flight Catering (EKFC), one of the world’s largest airline catering operators, will be using the product to supply 105 airlines with in-flight meals and the Dubai International Airport’s lounges.