Lettuce grow more productively

At a design festival a few years ago, I found myself staring at a tiny little futuristic unit that would grow lettuce for me all winter in my kitchen. As someone who feels the deep weight of the hundreds of unnecessary plastic salad clamshells on my conscience, I was suitably excited. How much more delicious would life be if I could grow all my greens right on my counter all winter? And bonus, better for the planet!

Indoor gardens for home use have since sprung up all over the place. But how to grow indoors at scale? It’s a challenge that is being heartily addressed by innovators across the globe, as a populous planet works to find less land-intensive ways to produce fruit and vegetables. Just this week vertiginous UK-based farm start-up Vertical Future closed £4.5m for a licensing deal for a fully automated farm to be built over the next ten years. The industry itself is poised to grow to an estimated 40 billion dollars by 2022.

Vertical Future says its farming produces 172% of the output per square metre of a traditional farm. According to Business of Green, “the system, which contains hardware and software elements, is fully powered by clean energy and avoids the carbon emissions, food miles and food waste incurred by traditional farming methods, adding that minimal human contact throughout the automated farming process reduced the risk of contamination from pathogens and bacteria.”

Covid has further highlighted concerns over food security, which vertical farming can help address, both through eliminating the possibility of supply chain disruptions and minimizing contamination risks. Indoor farming also requires much less water, as many companies produce ready-to-eat veg that doesn’t need rinsing. Another plus – indoor farming also doesn’t require pesticides.

As San Francisco salad startup, Plenty, claims,”indoor vertical farming shines a new light on the way we do food. Our farms use 99% less land and 95% less water to grow pesticide-free and non-GMO crops. All this in service of healthier plants, people and planet.” 

But is there a bit too much hype about all this skyscraper kale? A great piece by Adam Bergman, head of Food Tech at Wells Fargo, helps lay out a thoughtful case for vertical farming’s staying power, citing taste, sustainability, and year-round availability as its key ingredients for success.

Let us know your thoughts about vertical farming, and what it will do for your dinner plate.

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