Vertical farming: Salads and tomatoes get “high”

Insights , Insights , Geopolitics
10/15/2019 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.



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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 approach to cultivating food method is one element of our 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.


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 agriculture, smart investment?

In addition to vertical farming, precision farming and biologicals are the other two of the three pillars of tomorrow's agriculture. The megatrend revolving around intelligent agriculture offers investors interesting prospects; we estimate that the market will show an annual growth potential of 6 percent in the next few years.



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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