Time and time again we are being told that our food system is broken - that we will not be able to sustain the amount of food we are producing or meet the demands of our growing population. Carbon emissions and food waste are at an all-time high, whilst soil health and biodiversity levels are at a low. There is a lack of support and resources for farmers and our complicated food networks aren’t providing an even distribution of food to communities.
Some suggest the solution lies in changing our diets, buying from local sources, and reducing meat consumption where possible. Moving away from industrial farming and implementing regenerative and organic practices are also key to the future of sustainable farming.
Giving nature a helping hand
This can raise questions as to why indoor farming should be used at all. One reason that people may have doubts about the sustainability of indoor farming is that it is not ‘natural’ - because it does not use the sun, soil, or rain in the traditional sense. Often, there is a belief that sustainability and nature are mutually inclusive - that is, they must always occur together.
Indoor and vertical farming relieves pressure on our farmlands, freeing up space for organic and regenerative practices, as well as projects to introduce more biodiverse spaces onto farms - which are crucial to the future of our environment and habitats. Controlled environment agriculture seeks to mimic the most productive forms of agriculture, whilst also removing some of the disadvantages to outdoor growing. Aeroponics reproduces the effects of air pockets within a healthy soil system by suspending roots in the air and allowing access to oxygen.
Natural doesn’t always mean better
A completely organic and regenerative food production system is appealing. However, it is important to acknowledge that these methods produce less food, with the same amount of land. “Natural” methods of food production are effective and sustainable, but in some ways, romanticized. Nature can also be unforgiving and unfair, bringing along with it its own range of issues for the grower. It’s why many of the unsustainable practices we criticize today were developed in the first place. An unexpected change in weather conditions or a pest infestation can be devastating to crops, and a disappointing harvest can have huge consequences for both consumers and growers. Vertical farms can provide an environment that protects crops from both these things, providing reliable and consistent harvests. This can act as a foundation of year-round production to stabilize our food supply chain and reduce dependence on imports.
Producing less food is simply not an option - we need to find a way to intensify food production without having to industrially farm our natural environment. Therefore, indoor and vertical farming can be seen as a low-impact solution to boosting food production levels alongside sustainable outdoor practices.
Ultimately vertical farming won’t be the entire future of food, but there is a real opportunity to embed indoor farms into sustainable food production systems right now, for a better future. Introducing indoor farms into our food supply chains will only work alongside systematic changes and regenerative outdoor agricultural practices. In order for a small, localized indoor farm to be successful there must be a secure market demand for local produce. There must also be the responsible deployment of said farms to avoid issues related to the over-saturation of that local market.
This is a shortened version of an article originally published by LettUs Grow. You can read in its complete form here.