Can Vertical Farming Scale?
Thursday, May 29th, 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm
Fuse @ The Riverside
1724 Broadway St, Boulder, CO 80302
To some, vertical farming has a certain futuristic appeal. Growing food in the green urban towers, or in space-aged plant factories with controlled climates, free from pests and pesticides, recycling the same water over and over again has been pitched as a way to reduce the land, water, and energy impacts of farming, and bring food production closer to where most people live.
In this class, we’ll take a look at some of the numbers behind this kind of agriculture, and try to figure out what its impacts are — how much energy does it use? How does that compare to traditional agriculture? How much food can it produce? Is it a good use of urban space?
Read these two articles on a couple of recent vertical farming projects:
- Farmed Here, nation’s largest vertical farming operation opens in Chicago area (HuffPo).
- Vertical farming goes high tech and large scale (Resilient Communities)
What numbers we will need to find in order to estimate the energy and climate impacts of these facilities. Do the articles provide those numbers? Can you find those numbers on the websites of the vertical farming companies? Do any of them publicly make specific, testable claims? You might want to start with:
- How much electricity do they use each year?
- Where does their electricity come from?
- How much water do they use each year?
- What is their annual product yield?
- How much area does the growing facility take up?
- Where are the energy savings claims coming from?
And then for comparison, we’ll need to find similar information for traditional agriculture — what are the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production of similar foods that are grown traditionally? How does that number differ between conventional and organic agriculture? What about water use? How much of the crop can be produced per acre of land?
Feel free to contact the companies directly if you can’t find this information on their websites. For instance, the phone number for Farmed Here in Chicago is 847-846-8610. If you can find other large indoor/vertical food producers to contact, that would be great! The more numbers, the better.
If we can’t get the real numbers, then we’ll fly by the seat of our pants and try to estimate, but real numbers are always more fun.