"Vertical Farming (i.e. totally controlled-environment agriculture) has sometimes been promoted as the future of agriculture, just as urban farming has been forecasted to feed the cities. However, people outside of this young industry are then surprised to see mostly leafy greens and aromatic herbs grown in these high-tech systems," writes Eric Dargent, Managing partner at Mycelium. 

No doubt fresh local leafy vegetables are healthy and widely enjoyed, but they only represent a small portion of our diet. Can Vertical Farming go beyond leafy greens, and more towards the center of the plate?

As Tiffany Tsui, from the VerticalFarm Institute, said “it is important to remember that Vertical Farming technology is relatively new, having only been around for about 12 years. As technology and research continue to advance, we can expect to see a wider variety of crops being grown in vertical farms.”

At COP 27 in Sharm El Sheikh, industry leader Infarm – a modular farm manufacturer and manager producing mostly aromatic herbs and leafy greens – announced they had “successfully demonstrated the ability to grow wheat indoors towards [their] goal to address the food security challenge.”

However, according to Eric, there is a large step between proving a concept in a laboratory and producing a crop at scale. It is quite an ambition to go from aromatic herbs to wheat. In many ways, these crops are quite the opposite: aromatic herbs grow fast, offer high yield/cultivation area, come at a high price/kg and represent small volumes overall. Wheat is a staple crop: large volume, low price, much lower yield/cultivation area vs herbs and has a long crop cycle.

"For all these reasons, there is no economic viability in sight for growing wheat in vertical farms and talking about food security is probably a bit early; unless it is framed within the Mars colonization narrative, where reduced yields would be worth the expensive inputs. But between these 2 opposite crop categories, there are many other crops to be considered. I think we need to go back to the core of what Vertical Farming really is."

Read the entire article here