With a rising population, shrinking fresh water supplies, urban food deserts, and concerns over the impact of traditional farming practices, vertical farming has been getting more attention from some unexpected sources. Retail giant, Target and technology education powerhouse MIT are planning on bringing vertical farming to at least some of Target locations in the near future.
The idea is to provide fresh produce, as well as experiment with the technology, and by partnering with MIT, they are looking to experiment with produce beyond the leafy greens which are most common to vertical farming. Given that MIT has access to various world seed banks, we may see some interesting choices or even some varieties that haven’t been commercially grown in decades (or longer).
Vertical farming uses less water, pesticides, requires less soil, and can produce food in about half the growing time in the right conditions compared to traditional farming. It is also not subject to weather or seasonal conditions, which means that not only is it producing twice as much in the same period, but there is no real “out of season” time. All of this helps to make vertical farming up to 10 times more efficient than our traditional farming techniques and can be done on small and large scales in a fraction of the space.
For instance, the world’s largest vertical farm, run by AeroFarms opened earlier this year in Newark, NJ and is in a remodeled steel mill that is approximately 14,000 square meters which will produce 2 million pounds of leafy greens that would normally require close to 140,000 square meters of farmland. Yet there are also systems that are more suitable for a single family that you can put into a shed or greenhouse space depending on your needs.