Vertical farms, building a viable indoor farming model for cities

La ferme verticale Techno Farm Keikanna est capable de produire 30 000 têtes de laitues par jour à Kyoto, Japon © Spread

Dickson Despommier, Professor Emeritus of Public and Environmental Health, Columbia University in the City of New York

The number of vertical farms has grown to several hundred farms across Asia, Europe, and North America since the first appeared back in 2010. Using different types of technologies, vertical farms are a new type of Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) that could be described as a stack of greenhouses on top of each other, multiplying the plant yield by the number of floors comprising the vertical farm. It has now become a solution to most of the issues deriving from traditional outdoor farming: by occupying less land, it can contribute to the restoration of forests and by operating within a circular economy framework, it uses fewer resources and reuses organic waste.

Impacts on health could also be significant as outdoor farming contributes to the spread of global infectious diseases. While vertical farms require a high-tech environment, which can mostly be acquired in wealthy countries, the model could rise in the coming years as a viable solution to increase food sufficiency of cities across the world with the support of local authorities and international organizations, as well as with the multiplication of large commercial growers.