Vertical farming: Salads and tomatoes get “high”

Insights, Sustainable Value
15.10.2019 Reading time: 2 minute(s)

Where do you live? In the big city or out in the countryside? The trend is clear: by 2050, of the expected 9.8 billion people on Earth, 70 percent will live in cities. By then, conventional agriculture will be bumping up against its limits. That’s why in the next few years vertical farming could literally reach new heights.

Thirty years from now, there will have to be more of everything in the cities: more living space, more infrastructure and, of course, more food. And this food should also be fresh, sustainably produced, and of the highest quality. One possible solution is called vertical farming – i.e. agriculture within urban population centers.

The aim of vertical farming is to grow food in the middle of the city. This can be in skyscrapers, warehouses or cellars. The vertical method to cultivating food is one element of our megatrends-inspired investment theme “Smart farming”, and it is experiencing a real boom, especially in Japan. Since the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, for example, lettuce grown in multi-story vertical farms has been extremely popular – as it is guaranteed to be non-radioactive.

Salad with a city address

The advantages of this isolated cultivation method are clear. The crops, not exposed to automobile exhaust or other toxins, grow under optimal conditions – and they thrive. For example, the new generation of vegetables does not grow toward the sun, but rather toward thousands of LED lights installed inside a building. Individual plants are rooted on recyclable plastic mats instead of in soil, and sensors continuously monitor their growth. Any unused water or fertilizer is collected and reused. For this reason, today we also speak of Controlled-environment agriculture, or CEA resp. SMART-CEA for short).

  

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Dan Scott, Chief Investment Officer (CIO):

“Despite initial skepticism, the indoor salad actually tastes better than the traditional one.”

  

  

Vertical is the new horizontal

The plants are grown vertically, one above the other. Stacking saves space and increases the yield. The airline Emirates is currently building the world’s largest vertical farm in the middle of the desert, a stone’s throw from Dubai’s mega-airport. Starting in 2020, the airline’s millions of passengers will be able to enjoy fresh, herbicide-free and pesticide-free salads on board – made with lettuce that was harvested just a few hours before take-off.

Smart farming, smart investment?

When looking at the future of food, five pillars in the area of smart farming and food technology are of particular interest. In addition to vertical farming or CEA, these are:

  • Digital agriculture
  • Crop, plant and animal science
  • Animal health and human welfare
  • Enhancing the food supply chain

The megatrend revolving around smart farming offers investors interesting prospects. Read more in this blog article on “Smart farming & FoodTech”.

  

 
Example image on the megatrend of technology conversion: A robotic hand tries to catch a goose feather, which slowly floats downward. © GettyImages

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