Rehman produces okra, gourds, melons and tomatoes in the two tunnel garden units he built in the backyard of his home in Aka Khel, a town in one of Pakistan’s most food-insecure regions. Each less than a meter wide, these creative and economical structures are a type of low-technology greenhouse, consisting of steel tubes clad with a plastic covering and lined with irrigation hoses. FAO helped him install these earlier this year and now “it’s a relief at a time when markets and transports are closed due to the pandemic,” he says. He is one of millions of people around the world responding creatively to mitigate the pandemic’s disruptions to the food supply chain, which risk making food less available where it is needed most due both to logistical bottlenecks and declining incomes triggered by the health emergency. In this scenario, solutions that shorten the food supply chain, including vertical and urban farming have taken on new importance. 

Farming vertically
Vertical gardens and microgardens have enjoyed new popularity in recent years, which the COVID-19 pandemic may catalyze further. The former are often high-tech urban facilities allowing vegetables to grow indoors or outdoors using hydroponics while the latter are tiny farming plots that fit in urban settings. Both can offer high-yield opportunities to grow leafy green vegetables and other high-value food crops. Restaurants are even engaging in a type of microgarden, also called “precision indoor farming”, thanks to a company in Budapest, Tungsram, that was the first to patent the modern light bulb. Today it produces a closet-sized cabinet with computer-controlled lighting and temperatures and an integrated hydroponics system that allows businesses to create their own indoor gardens with minimal labour. Vertical farms, on the other hand, are often large urban operations, housed in old warehouses or basements. Some practitioners can even duplicate conditions needed to grow the world-famous basil from Italy or the prized Omakase strawberry from Japan. 

Read more at Food and Agriculture Organization