On Sustainability And Vertical Farming Systems

On Sustainability And Vertical Farming Systems

On Sustainability And Vertical Farming Systems

By Tom Karst March 31, 2017 | 12:06 pm EDT

Just how sustainable are urban vertical farms? One reader recently noted in an e-mail that a business is setting up a vertical growing system within a metal shipping container in Arizona, “of all places.”

When you put paper to pencil, does the math work? Will a sunless, LED light-only, vertical farming system located in a city warehouse work? How do costs compare with conventional greenhouses?

Check out a recent story about AeroFarms on CBS This Morning, found at this link.

The story reviews many of the positives of the urban vertical farming trend, notably jobs, fresh local produce and less food miles.

But do the economics work? After all the seed money and private equity funding, will this trend be sustainable?

In the text version of the CBS This Morning story, Cornell University researcher Kale Harbick stated that his studies found indoor farms that rely solely on artificial light are not energy-efficient or sustainable. He said in the story that once the seed money runs dry, urban greenhouses struggle.

Even before it was built, the AeroFarms facility had critics before it was built, questioning if investment incentives and tax breaks would be a sound investment.

Scott Beyer in Forbes questioned the economics of the vertical farm in a column called “Newark Subsidizes A Crackpot Idea: Vertical Farming

I had a conversation this morning with Harbick of Cornell and he provided some insights on electricity costs in vertical farms versus conventional greenhouses. I’ll share that a little later...What is your sense on the long term sustainability of urban vertical farming systems in the fresh produce supply chain? I welcome your thoughts.

Topics:

GREENHOUSE

VERTICAL FARMING

About the Author:

Tom Karst 

Tom Karst is national editor for The Packer and Farm Journal Media, covering issues of importance to the produce industry including immigration, farm policy and food safety. He began his career with The Packer in 1984 as one of the founding editors of ProNet, a pioneering electronic news service for the produce industry. Tom has also served as markets editor for The Packer and editor of Global Produce magazine, among other positions. Tom is also the main author of Fresh Talk, www.tinyurl.com/freshtalkblog, an industry blog that has been active since November 2006. Previous to coming to The Packer, Tom worked from 1982 to 1984 at Harris Electronic News, a farm videotext service based in Hutchinson, Kansas. Tom has a bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism from Kansas State University, Manhattan. He can be reached at tkarst@farmjournal.com and 913-438-0769. Find Tom's Twitter account at www.twitter.com/tckarst.

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