Land and water are both receding as population of the world goes on increasing, and the responsibility to feed the people is getting harder by the day, which is why experts are suggesting various alternative means, like vertical farming.
Vertical farms can be indoors and can be placed anywhere, thus reducing the pressure to secure farmable land. Many farm consultants and professionals are reinventing and revolutionising the entire process.
This method of farming helps products to be grown year-round. The quality and quantity of produce is improved, that too using up to over 95-98 per cent less of water and land.
"Imagine a 1,500-acre farm. Now, imagine that fitting inside your favourite grocery store, growing up to 350x more. That's efficient," says the website of Plenty, an ag-tech start-up in San Francisco, USA.
Whether in urban or rural areas, vertical farming is increasingly being used for growing maximum possible food for the increasing population. It has now emerged as a new farming technology all over the world. Similar efforts are being carried out in India too.
Entrepreneurs are now coming forward in vertical farming with high net returns. Vertical farming can be used inside buildings, warehouses, or on a terrace – rooftops, balconies.
Experts at the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (under Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare) are working on the concept where food crops can be grown even on multi-storeyed buildings without using soil or pesticides.
Scientists at Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya, an agricultural university in West Bengal, have successfully grown brinjal and tomato while in Punjab, potato tubers have been grown through vertical farming.
Vertical farms are also preferred because their food is organic, of high quality and the supply is predictable.
Gurgaon-based Barton Breeze, Chennai-based Future Farms and Acqua Farms, Goa-based Letcetra Agritech and BitMantis Innovations and Greenopiais of Bengaluru have also entered the arena.
UrbanKisaan.com too builds a network of indoor vertical farms and grows pesticide-free produce using 95% less water and requiring less than 1% of land needed for outdoor farms. This means saving 2,16,000 litres of water per farm per month, taking a farm to be of the size of about 2,000 sq ft.
According to a report on Interesting Engineering, a particular vertical farm produces 400 times more food per acre than a flat farm!
Moreover, the water used is recycled, and evaporated water in the air is captured, and reused.
However, the huge capital cost for infrastructure for a large-scale farm and other challenges like public awareness, inclusiveness of farming community, technical know-how, and its economic viability are still to be overcome.