Our most frequently asked questions
Vertical farming is a hydroponics method of growing food in a controlled, indoor environment. Plants are grown in modules or trays which are stacked on top of each other and illuminated with artificial light. Rather than soil, vertical farms feed their crops with a reservoir of nutrient-rich solution which is pumped to the plant crop.
There are many! Growing food on vertical farms can reduce water use requirements by up to 90%, as well as offer improved nutrient use efficiency in comparison to conventional farming. As soil is not used, pesticides are not usually necessary. This means that vertical farming may be able to help reduce the environmental impact food production, as well as improving crop yield and consistency by reducing the influence of environmental stressors on food production. As such stressors are likely to increase with climate change (heightened flood risk and drought risk), controlled environment agriculture may therefore help to safeguard food production.
There are a number of challenges associated with vertical farming, in principle being the high energy cost of operating the pumps and artificial lighting, which are usually fairly energy intensive. Whilst in some contexts, growers may be able to manage without supplementing the light levels, arrays of vertical farms will usually need some form of lighting, as very little sunlight from overhead will be able to reach the crop leaves. The environmental cost of the parts and assembling the apparatus must also be considered, and in many scenarios vertical farming will not be economical. However, as with all agri-tech, if the method is used in the right places to grow the right crops, the gains may offset the losses. It is an objective of the Tech Tyfu project to explore where vertical farming may be particularly valuable, and what forces will dictate cost effectiveness.
Vertical farming is by no means a niche, eccentric fad, the current world market was valued £1.72bn in 2018 and is predicted to rise to £9.84bn by 2026, set to outstrip other major markets in agri-tech (such as biostimulants).
The UK imports almost half of its food, and our food supply chains are vulnerable to economic, political and environmental stress. Vertical farming may play a vital role in helping to position agriculture more resilient to climate change and supply chain disruption. While often seen as an urban technique, there may exist considerable potential for vertical farming to be used in more rural sectors such as North Wales. In this area, we have a considerable number of high end restaurants associated with the tourism industry, and we have also have many farmers who are looking to diversify their food production approaches. Many farmers have seen potential to retrofit agricultural buildings with vertical farms, and in Wales, farmers are highly adept at both producing and marketing food.
If you are interested in participating in our Scale Up project, express your interest in the Tech Tyfu Twf school project, or just want to speak to the team, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org . Don’t forget to follow us on social media for the latest news and opportunities to get involved.