Vertical Land Farming? A Bust. Vertical Ocean Farming? The Next Frontier.

Vertical Land Farming? A Bust. Vertical Ocean Farming? The Next Frontier.

*Article Notes: This monthly column takes some crazy sounding ideas and applies them to the field of Ag Tech. The purpose of this is purely entertainment, but hey, if we can spread ideas, or ignite imaginations, how awesome is that?*

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“By using the entire food column, our farm model has the capacity to grow 20 tons of sea vegetables and 500,000 shellfish on each acre per year.” — GreenWave

Vertical farming has been on the public radar the last few years. Mostly because it offers the idea of scale at a different level. I mean, why be a mile wide and an inch deep when you can be a mile deep and an inch wide? At least that is the old adage.

When I look at vertical farming on land, the math just doesn’t work for me. There will not be enough building space to ever grow enough food. A Wall Street Journal article in June of 2016 posed the question: Are shipping containers the future of farming? The company behind the farming-focused shipping containers claims that in one year a shipping container could produce what two acres of land can produce in a year.

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Well, there is currently 7,680,000,000 acres of arable land in the world, so that’s only 3.84 billion shipping containers to be the future of farming. Not to mention now you have to generate your own sunlight and water resources, something mother nature takes care of for us at the moment.

Pending some global nature meltdown that makes all of earth inhabitable for food production or some grandiose innovation in food growing technology, vertical land farming will be a niche market, certainly not the next frontier. (If it even exists at all.)

On the other hand, what has gotten very little news (at least until recently) is ocean farming. Coincidentally, lots of nitrogen and phosphorus has made its way to the Gulf of Mexico, creating an opportunity to maybe use it again.

A company called GreenWave (greenwave.org) has produced a model that says with $30,000 dollars and a boat anyone can get started with ocean farming.

With 25 farmers in GreenWaves’ program and yield potential per acre that rivals land producing capabilities, it’s not just possible, it could seriously start to compete with traditional crops for the food consumption market. It might be time for traditional land farmers to think of diversifying.

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Ron says:

I agree shipping containers will not be the model for vertical farming on a large scale. They lack scalability especially considering labor efficiency. Larger vertical farms in disused buildings or purpose built facilities is a different matter. Consider there already exists a VF on the east coast of the US that is producing the equivalent of 1 outdoor acre on only 32 square feet (cubic feet varies depending on crops) but the footprint is 32 square vs one acre. That considers not only the vertical aspect but the fact that there is zero exposure to weather it can produce 365 days per year so the number of crops is 7 to 10 times outdoors and the production per sq ft is also higher each crop because the conditions and ability to give exactly the perfect light shortens crop time even further. I believe of course there will always be field production but it will be reduced drastically in the next 10 years.