"I have just had notification that my day rate electricity is rising from 23.23p/kwh to 31.24p/kwh a 31% increase, shared Peter Lane, Executive Chairman at the Vertical Farming Network.
"I know that is a domestic rate, but how many true enclosed vertical farms can afford that sort of increase in their most basic resource cost? Even for supplemental light systems that must be very damaging."
Peter said that it reflects wholesale prices up to now, but with the war in Ukraine, he is expecting energy costs to go up a lot further again. Therefore, how will the vertical farming industry cope with the increase? The concern is that prices of vertical farm-grown crops will have to go up considerably, and they are already dearer than field crops. Could this see many vertical farming businesses go under?
He continues, "This is in the UK, I wonder how much energy is rising in the EU as they are worse off than us with their reliance on Russian and Ukrainian gas. With the damage to Ukraine & the Russian food chain which provides much of Europe's grain and wheat, the price of food is going to hit hard."
© Wirestock | Dreamstime.com
The industry responds
Brian Braginton-Smith with SMART Cities replies: "Integrated sustainable platform evolution is upon us. Working in isolation, dependent upon the status quo, isolated (Bigger is better) industry silo systems that evolved in the 19th and 20th Century reality will become increasingly costly in the 20th Century reality demanding a new technology focus. It's about convergence and synergistic interdependent value capture in independent but interconnected local SMART web matrices."
According to Brian, local circular economic hubs of renewable resources for domestic resiliency are not dependent upon distant supply chains vulnerable to disruptions of many kinds. These disruptions are causing shortages, outages and price volatility far beyond the sector's control. SMART technology and strong local resource bases in sustainable water, food and energy are the future. "We need to view food as an essential local infrastructure element like education, energy and other essential public services."
Chris Higgins, President, and co-Founder at Hort Americas, commented: "I have been thinking about this all week. I am talking to European greenhouse growers that are reducing the amount of hours they run their lights to try to reduce their energy bills. It also has me thinking about the current strategy behind electric light usage in controlled environment agriculture (whether vertical farm or greenhouse). Everyone is talking/has been talking about higher-powered lights and increasing light intensity to the crop. It might be time to focus on the impact of these strategies (which in my opinion we should have been doing the whole time for other reasons.)"
"As a company dedicated to bringing highly efficient solar energy specifically to CEA and vertical farm applications Peter, the answer is a resounding NO, this is not the end of vertical farming, anything but! With any luck, it will help end the "greenwashing" of the CEA industry and finally break the lock that PV has in many of these applications - where it, in fact, is simply not viable," added Dan Demers, founder, and president at Do Energy.