The possibility of keeping up uninterrupted cold chains during transport led to food production being located farther and farther from consumers. Cities became more dependent on their surrounding regions and a culture of heavy food imports emerged.
Nowadays, new ways of producing food have been steadily refined/developed to a point where we are starting to see pioneers of new food production settling right amongst our increasingly densely populated cities. Through vertical farms, our urban areas can progressively gain independence again and the accompanying simplification of logistics becomes more relevant in our urbanized world.
Vertical farms make cities bit by bit more independent again. The accompanying simplification of logistics becomes more and more relevant in an urbanized world.
Shopping on the farm next door
A growing amount of people realize that the way we live and eat is a big threat, not only to our health but also to the health of our environment. Re-establishing food production in our cities can tackle both of those issues by reducing the environmental footprint of food production and the redundancy of long transport, keeping our food naturally fresh, and by controlled cultivation, optimizing the nutritional value of our crops.
The Aeroponic system emerges as the most efficient way to grow plants indoors, with highly optimized procedures and the ability to perform all year round in any climate or season. Its uses span from big scale vertical farming to small scale urban gardening. Residents and local facilities (Restaurants, canteens, supermarkets…) can benefit greatly from food produced right around the corner.
Saving our planet’s soil by not using it
As our soil is degrading with each yield, multiple attempts have arisen to stop this trend that is threatening our rural agriculture. Like mentioned in our article “The oldest challenge of mankind is still one of the toughest — and will get even tougher”, the degradation of soil is a very difficult challenge to take on, luckily, the Aeroponic growing system used in vertical farming doesn’t rely on it at all. Aeroponics works by cultivating plants simply in the air. More precisely, in a mist of minimal amounts of water and fertilizer.
The idea has been around for over 100 years and has been continuously benefiting from technologic advancement. NASA also worked intensely on this system for its outstanding efficiency and suitability to be used in outer space missions.
Aeroponics provides controlled and rapid food production. Crops can be grown all year round and the clean/sterile setup prevents the spread of plant diseases and infection as well as pest infestation, completely eliminating the need for pesticides or herbicides.
Its efficient nature also means a reduced need for fertilizer by about 60% and reduced water usage by an astonishing 98% compared to regular agriculture.
Next Step Vertical Farming
It is estimated that about 50% of the world’s food is lost or wasted before it can be consumed. The biggest part of the problem are homes, supermarkets and restaurants, while logistical problems between farmers and markets also play a role.
In order to make sure there’s enough food for everybody, even in 2050 when the world population will hit 10 billion, finding a solution to reduce food waste is one of the most important opportunities.
Vertical farms as a direct supplier harbor the opportunity to cut down on food waste by eliminating transport routes, keeping the food fresh, and its compact system enables better control over supply/production.
As seen in the intralogistics sector, automation and algorithm aided processes will be the next step for further optimizing vertical farms.
Just like how autonomous robots became a vital part of intralogistics in warehouses all around the globe, farm bots will roam the huge shelves with fresh greens, yield and prepare them for delivery or for the customer in the shop to take away.
In our article on future food networking “Track your veggies!” we looked at how each household’s food supply will diversify in the future — with urban gardening and vertical farming spreading and food delivery services expanding.
Citizens will be more interlinked with the food production network, which will enhance its efficiency even more as well as boost its comfortability. Consumer analysis enables each vertical farm to always be one step ahead on supply and demand calculations to prevent that more food is being produced than can be consumed.
In addition, the controlled cultivation of plants also has many benefits, like maximized productivity, e.g., vertical farming can produce up to 6 tomato crop cycles in a year instead of the traditional 1–2 or the elevated amount of minerals and vitamins taken up by the plants.
Sourcing food grown within the city will become everyday normality.
This is part four of an article series written by Oliver Keller, Creative Director at TEAMS Hamburg, and Reinold Durstberger, Designer at TEAMS Hamburg to analyse the current challenges of the global agricultural industry, and the open possibilities for innovation to create sustainable solutions.
Read the last part of this series — Seaweed, a lot of zeros.