As per the UN, by the year 2050, around 70% of the world’s population will live in urban areas and the total population will reach around 970 crore people.
With an exponential increase in the world’s population, the time is not far when our planet would see a definite reduction of cultivable land. Urbanization is evident among Indian cities also, where people are moving from rural areas to urban areas for settling down. This leads to the shrinking of arable land and stresses the urgent need to provide food to the ever-increasing population. Vertical farming is a possible answer to this problem.
What is vertical farming?
Vertical farming is an ultra-modern method of urban agriculture. Farming is done on vertical surfaces rather than horizontally as seen in traditional farming. By stacking the crops, farmers can produce more food using the same amount of land. Vertical farming is often done in high-rise buildings, warehouses, or spaces not suitable for traditional farming. However, to make it a success, great control of the light, temperature, and humidity is required.
Techniques used in vertical farming
Hydroponics – This is one of the oldest and most popular methods of vertical farming. In this method, the plant is suspended in a soil-less bed, with roots hanging to absorb the oxygen-aerated solution.
Aeroponics – Aeroponics involves the free-floating roots. The dangling roots absorb a fine mist of nutrient solution sprayed onto them with the help of a pump. Even though aeroponics enables plants to grow quickly as compared to hydroponics, it is more costly.
Aquaponics – Just like hydroponic systems, aquaponics systems also consist of soil-free plant beds suspended over nutrient-rich water. The only difference is that within the water there are fishes who produce wastes that function as a fertilizer for plants. In return, plants purify the water for fishes. For this reason, aquaponics requires greater attention than hydroponics and aeroponics.
Benefits of vertical farming
- Vertical farming techniques require 98% less water and 99% less land. Moreover, 240 times more crops can be produced with the help of this method.
- Unlike traditional farming, vertical farming is not dependent on weather and climate. Hence, all sorts of fruits and vegetables can be produced year-round.
- When done indoors, vertical farming can drastically lessen the hazards associated with traditional farming. Farmers growing crops with this method will not be exposed to wildlife, poisonous chemicals, and other life-threatening challenges.
- Vertical farming can also solve the problem of food deserts. Food deserts are highly populated areas with a lack of food. Since vertical farming can be integrated into existing buildings and rooftops, a lot of food opportunities can be created.
Vertical farming in India
We cannot expect vertical farming to completely replace the traditional way of farming. However, if we want to meet the food demands of tomorrow, vertical farming needs to be integrated into our agricultural systems as soon as possible. The good news is, vertical farming is no longer a fairy tale now, it is happening in our country too.
There have been small-scale adaptations of vertical farming in West Bengal and Punjab in the past. Bidhan Chandra Krishi Vishwavidhyala in West Bengal has succeeded in growing tomatoes and brinjals with vertical farming. Also, Punjab has grown potatoes through it.
Vertical farming will not just prove to be an efficient method for making use of unused spaces, but will also be a way of generating employment and income in India. Moreover, it is environment-friendly, economically sensible, health-sensitive, and technology-driven.
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