Is Vertical Farming a Win?
According to The Balance Small Business, "Vertical farming is the practice of producing food on vertically inclined surfaces" that are "commonly integrated into other structures like skyscrapers, shipping containers, or repurposed warehouses."
Traditional farming of vegetables and other foods has usually been on a single level either in a field or greenhouse, which usually takes up a lot of space and reduces the number of products that can be grown, unless a farmer wants to purchase more land. It also leaves the produce open to contamination by pests. Vertical farming can reduce pests, as produce can be grown indoors in a contained environment that is constantly being observed.
According to the United Nations, by 2050 the world’s population is expected to grow to 9.7 billion people, which means feeding that population could become a huge challenge, especially since industrial development and urbanization have reduced arable lands. A report by Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures states that in 2015, scientists reported that the Earth had lost a third of its arable lands over the previous 40 years.
The time to find alternative solutions to producing food so that the growing population doesn’t face significant shortages is now.
One Europe-based vertical farming startup, Infarm, just earned $200 million in recent funding to fuel its expansion and entry into new markets. Some of the investors in this recent funding round included Partners in Equity, Hanaco, Atomico, Lightrock, Bonnier, and the Qatar Investment Authority. The company plans to use its recent funding to enter Middle East markets and to expand in areas in Asia, the U.S., Japan, and Europe.
You could say that the company has big plans for its vertical farming efforts. Vertical farming holds promising opportunities. This indoor and stacked method promises things like climate-friendly agriculture, land clearance, and enabling food to travel shorter distances.
According to TechCrunch, Infarm says that it is now valued at over $1 billion. Infarm is the first vertical farming startup in Europe to reach this “unicorn” milestone. The company provides about 75 types of herbs, salads, and leafy greens. It sells premium food at affordable prices to everyone. Not to mention, Infarm plans to expand its portfolio with 40 new crops that include mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, peas, and strawberries.
Erez Galonska, co-founder and CEO of Infarm, had this to say about the current food system and Infarm’s system:
Vertical farming and the Infarm system provide a sustainable solution to feed a growing population in a way that’s much better for the planet and is far more resilient and flexible in the face of climate uncertainty and supply chain disruption.
Infarm has claimed that "it can transform a space the size of a living room into an urban vertical farm that is able to produce more than 500,000 plants per year, which could be equivalent to a soccer field worth of crops," CNBC reports. Infarm’s vertical farms use no pesticides, which are typical in most conventional farming. This is a huge advantage to a lot of consumers. Infarm also does what it can to reduce their waste and recycle water and nutrients and use the evaporated water of the plants. The company claims it uses 95% less land and 95% less water than soil-based agriculture. These claims can sometimes seem too good to be true.
While all of this sounds ideal and could significantly impact the world now and in the future, there will always be critics. And some of those critics point out that vertical farming struggles to earn a profit, uses too much energy, can be expensive to run, and can produce light pollution and other forms of pollution.
Infarm tries its best to understand the problems that come with vertical farming and attempt to find solutions because successful vertical farming could be very beneficial to the world. According to Statista, the global vertical farming market has been growing steadily. In 2019, the vertical farming market reached about $4.4 billion and is expected to increase to $15.7 billion by 2025.
The Insight Partners expects the vertical farming market size and growth to increase at 24.4% CAGR from 2021–2028. There is an obvious opportunity to grow and to make money in this market, and Infarm is one of the vertical farming companies that understand this. And that is why the company has been going through funding rounds trying to attract more and more investors to feed the company’s efforts to grow its business throughout the world and to offer more when it comes to produce.
Until next time,