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Vertical farming

Sevcan Pazı

Published Apr 14, 2021

The Food and Agriculture Organization data (FAO 2009) show that the world’s population will reach 9.1 billion by 2050, 34 percent higher than today. Urbanization, 49 percent today, will reach 70 percent. There will be a need for healthy urban food to feed this growing population when the area they need will increase. Consequently, agricultural lands that supply food demand will decrease. In this agenda, Dickson Despommier, Professor of Microbiology and Public Health at Columbia University, developed the proposal of “vertical farming” concept in 1999. Despommier and his students assumed that they could design a high-rise building farm that could feed 50,000 people (Cooper 2019).

Vertical farming is a solution that combines a high-rise building and a farm as an innovative space to grow more food. National Center for Appropriate Technology(NCAT) describes vertical farming as “involves growing crops in controlled indoor environments, with precise light, nutrients, and temperatures” (Birkby 2016). So, vertical farming is the process where food is produced on vertically erected surfaces. Instead of farming on a single level such as in a field or greenhouse, this approach produces vegetables and other crops in vertically stacked layers typically built into structures such as a skyscraper, shipping container, or repurposed warehouse (Leblanc 2019). There are four main criteria to understand the vertical farming system. These are; ‘physical layout’, ‘lighting,’ ‘growing methods,’ and the ‘sustainability features.’

On the other hand, in a vertical farm, both natural and artificial lights are used, such as sun, solar cells, and LEDs. However, rather than soil, hydroponics, or aeroponics or aquaponics can be used in vertical farming (Royston & Pavithra 2018). With these methods, almost any crops can be produced, when all the required conditions are provided (Burley 2019). Lettuce, leafy greens, spices, strawberries, and cucumbers are the most popular products in vertical farms (Kalantari et al. 2017) and these products are known as organic due to the materials used in this process. Nevertheless, there is still an indefinite issue about the certificate. According to Birkby (2016), certification between the vertical agriculture group and the organic regulators create the guidelines of organic certification is under consideration. Lastly, the vertical approach of agriculture uses specific characteristics of sustainability to offset agricultural energy costs, like using 95% less water than conventional agriculture (Royston & Pavithra 2018). Also, several vertical farms have been introduced, and some have suggested using wind turbines and photovoltaic panels for power supply. It is stated that vertical farms could also help to establish renewable energy, electricity, waste, and water solutions by transforming biogas coming from excess heat, waste, and CO2 for heating and cooling (Al-Kodmany 2018).

If the pros and cons of vertical farming are stated, while agriculture creates rural and economy of rural areas; It meets the nutritional needs of citizens. Agriculture is the interface between the city and the countryside. However, with vertical farming, this interface is gathered at a single point and melts the boundary between these two. Also, the present food procurement activities in urban areas are suffering from environmental and economic challenges, such as the costly nature of long-distance food transport. With vertical farming, it will not be necessary to bring fresh crops from other regions, which will reduce transportation costs. Another advantage is its contribution to nature. The cultivation of the soil changes each period, and different substances are added to the soil to increase productivity for the increasing population. With vertical farming, these vast areas will be emptied, and they will regain their natural state. Also, the wastes and gases that will be generated by reducing the mechanical tools used in the cultivation of the product will support nature. Compared to traditional farming using plenty of fossil fuels, vertical farming may reduce the amount of fossil fuel usage (Al-Kodmany 2018). It also means less CO2 emissions and pollution due to a reduction in dependency on coal-fired materials (Royston & Pavithra 2018). One of the biggest problems with vertical agriculture is its high cost. The money spent at the installation and the stage after installation is very high, and necessary artificial lighting and climate control can add significantly to operational costs. Its absolute dependency on technology is another disadvantage. Even a daily loss of power in the system will harm all grown plants and disrupt their artificially created environments. Besides, crops requiring insect pollination on a vertical farm are at a disadvantage, as insects are typically excluded from the growing climate. Plants that need pollination necessitate hand-taking personnel time and effort (Birkby 2016).

In line with these, vertical farming will be a sustainable solution to meet the food demand of the world population, although these future initiatives have already been implemented in some countries such as Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, and other such technologically advanced countries (AeroFarms 2020).

[i] The crop is supported by an inert, such as cocopeat, is fed by a nutrient-water solution, and uses about 70 percent of it.

[ii] The basic concept of aeroponic growth is to grow plants suspended in a closed or semi-closed atmosphere by spraying the hanging roots of the plant and the lower stem with an atomized, or sprayed water-solution rich in nutrients.

[iii] A recirculating method combining hydroponics (water-growing plants) with aquaculture (fish farming) to create an effective, closed-loop system.

This paper is written within the requirements of the MIM 419 Development of Written Communication Skills course at the Department of Architecture at TOBB ETU instructed by Dr. Elif Mıhçıoğlu.


Al-Kodmany K., (2018). The Vertical Farm: A Review of Developments and Implications for the Vertical City. Buildings [online]. 8(2), 24. [Viewed 5 March 2020]. Available from:

Birkby, J., (2016). Vertical Farming. ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture (A Program of National Center for Appropriate Technology) [online]. [Viewed 24 January 2020]. Available from:

Cooper, A., (2019). Going Up? Vertical Farming in High-Rises Raises Hopes. Pacific Standard [online]. [Viewed 14 February 2020]. Available from:

FAO, (2009). Expert Meeting on How to Feed the World in 2050 [online]. Rome: FAO. [Viewed 24 January 2020]. Available from:

Kalantari F., Tahir O.M., Lahijani A.M. and Kalantari S., (2017). A Review of Vertical Farming Technology: A Guide for Implementation of Building Integrated Agriculture in Cities. Trans Tech Publications [online]. 24, 76-91. [Viewed 27 March 2020]. Available from:

Leblanc, R., (2019). What You Should Know About Vertical Farming? Is it the future of agriculture, The Balance [online]. [Viewed 25 January 2020]. Available from:

Royston M.R. and Pavithra M.P., (2018). Vertical Farming: A Concept. International Journal of Engineering and Techniques [online].  4(3), 501-505. [Viewed 3 April 2020]. Available from:

Sources of Visual Materials:

AeroFarms, (2020). The Future of Farming is Circular: Reflections from Davos 2020. AeroFarms [online]. 21 February 2020. [Viewed 3 April 2020]. (Picture by: Steinmetz, G.) Available from:

Burley, H., (2019). Edinburgh-based vertical farm specialist seeks investment to grow 40 indoor sites. Innovators [online]. 7th October 2019. [Viewed 7 March 2020]. (Picture by: Gasson, A.) Available from:

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