‘Surging costs could be the final nail in the coffin for many vertical farms’


Vertical farms or ‘plant factories’ – terms which describe vertically-stacked, fully controlled environments used to produce food – have the potential to increase global food production in the coming years.

It is estimated that by 2050, the world’s population will have risen to 9.8 billion. And of these almost 10 billion people, 67.2% are expected to live in urban areas. This means that globally, food production must increase by at least 70%, estimates the UN.

Because vertical farming technology is not nearly as dependent on limited natural resources – such as land and fresh water – as conventional agriculture, it is often touted a more environmentally sustainable alternative.

But fresh research out of Scandinavia is questioning vertical farming’s sustainability performance, suggesting the technology is too energy-intensive and responsible for higher greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than open-field cultivation.

At the same time, UK-based consultancy IDTechEx has raised concerns that the ‘notoriously power-hungry’ sector, which requires ‘large amounts of energy to operate’, may struggle to ride out the storm of rising energy prices.

Is vertical farming deserving of its ‘sustainability halo’?

Vertical farming is one of several technologies being developed at a ‘considerable pace’ to facilitate the transformation towards achieving food system sustainability. According to researchers at Stockholm University and the University of Copenhagen, these food system technologies are often surrounded by a ‘sustainability halo’.

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