Though a few years ago, controlled-environment farming, of which vertical farming is a sub-section, was touted as the best way to feed a growing population, now its future seems to hang in the balance.

“It’s worse than you described,” says Andrew Lloyd, deputy CEO and COO of Scottish tech firm Intelligent Growth Solutions (IGS), when asked if the vertical farming sector was struggling. “Many firms have already gone bust.”

“They are selling dreams they can’t fulfill,” says Jesper Hansen, chief commercial officer at Taiwan-headquartered YesHealth Group. “There’s been a lot of money available in the past decade for companies with big dreams like solving the world’s food problems or being a fully autonomous farm, but we still have decades in front of us to mature this industry.”

Soaring energy prices in Europe are just one external pressure to have exposed cracks in business plans, leaving start-ups vulnerable. In May, London-headquartered Infarm shuttered operations in the continent to focus on “regions better suited for indoor farming.” In April, New York-based Upward Farms threw in the towel after ten years, citing the “infinitely complex” industry.