Food security will become a major concern for many countries throughout the world as the world’s population grows to 9.7 billion people by 2050. Because of the numerous benefits, vertical farming is frequently seen as a solution to our food scarcity problems.
Although vertical farming is gaining popularity, there are several red flags to be aware of. It has significant initial costs, consumes a lot of energy, and necessitates highly skilled personnel.
This article examines all of the drawbacks of vertical farming while also providing potential solutions.
High Initial Cost
Vertical farming is an expensive venture since every step of the process, from locating the correct facilities to selecting the best-performing crops, costs a significant amount of money. Land prices alone significantly raise the upfront cost, as land in metropolitan regions is typically highly costly. However, by utilizing existing structures like shipping containers, old factories, and abandoned office buildings, several vertical farms have been able to reduce facility-related expenditures. Vertical farms might also be erected on barren land that is unsuitable for regular cultivation.
Equipment prices put further strain on the budgets of many vertical farming startups. Most vertical farms require costly equipment such as climate controls, shelving units, LED lights, water lines, computers, and so on. Nonetheless, the cost of indoor agricultural equipment is likely to fall drastically as indoor agriculture gets more popular and the number of vertical farms grows.
Vertical Farms Require High Operational Costs
Vertical farming is an unquestionably energy-intensive venture, made the more so if farms depend only on artificial lighting systems. Energy consumption accounts for 40 to 50 percent of overall production costs, while lighting costs alone might account for 25-30% of operating costs.
Labor is often the biggest operational cost for all indoor farming operations, with a small hydroponic farm paying 57 percent of its budget on labor on average. Vertical farming is also projected to see large cost savings as technology evolves and becomes more effective.
Most vertical farms’ operating costs are heavily influenced by the farming method used, as each has unique requirements. Vertical farming systems like geoponics, hydroponics, and aeroponics are now among the most popular. Geoponic systems, for example, are less expensive in terms of maintenance, labor, and technical expenditures, but hydroponic and aeroponic technologies, on the other hand, require highly experienced people to function well.
Small Numbers of Crops can be grown Economically
A vertical farm can be modified to grow any plant species, but only a limited number of them can be cultivated economically. Due to its quick growth cycle, high cost, and short shelf life, leafy greens and herbs continue to be the primary crop in the worldwide vertical farming sector. Leafy greens have a large profit margin, which makes them particularly desirable to vertical farmers, in addition to their relatively straightforward growing method.
Pollination is More difficult in Vertical Farms
Pollination is the process of transferring pollen from one flower to the stigma of another flower, resulting in fertilization and the formation of seeds and fruits. Bees, birds, wind, and other natural pollinators aid in the pollination process in outdoor farming. The absence of pollinators in vertical farming is a significant challenge that, if not addressed, might result in significant economic losses.
There is a high reliance on technology operating well
A typical vertical farm relies on technology to maintain the smooth operation of vital systems like temperature, lighting, irrigation, and humidity. The dependence of Vertical Farming on technology also renders it vulnerable to unexpected events, since even the most advanced equipment and software can have faults and problems.
Limited Knowledge About Indoor Farming
Even as vertical farming technology and production practices advance, the sector still suffers from a knowledge gap. Most highly trained professionals, such as horticulturists and agricultural engineers, learn the majority of their abilities via exposure to information and technology related to outdoor farming, resulting in a knowledge gap regarding emerging techniques like vertical farming.
Due to this lack of knowledge, several vertical farms are said to be losing money. For example, providing CO2, a key component in the photosynthesis process, is critical for optimal plant development, yet only a small percentage of growers were aware of this.
Vertical farming will require extensive study to close this knowledge gap. Controlled growth conditions and year-round output provided by vertical farms may be valuable in gaining a better knowledge of the physiological, nutritional, and molecular processes of vertically produced crops in the fast-developing sciences of biotechnology and nutrition.