Vertical Farms and the Future of Agriculture

– [Narrator] The food of the future has nowhere to go but up. (dubstep music) Let’s say you’re about to take a bite out of a fresh, delicious mango. Mango. Let’s say you’re about to take a bite out of a fresh, delicious bok choy. (bok choy crunches) Do you ever stop to wonder where all that fresh
plant matter comes from? Farms are a big reason why our
species has been able to grow over the last 10,000 years. But modern agriculture comes
with some pretty big drawbacks. For one thing, it requires a lot of water; up to 70% of our fresh
water goes to agriculture. And then, it depends a lot on the weather. Unseasonable temperatures
or long droughts, like what we see in
California, or flooding, can damage billions of
dollars worth of crops. And then there’s the fact that
farms are often very far away from where the people are. So the food you eat may
travel thousands of miles on trucks, ships, even airplanes, meaning that those leafy greens have a pretty hefty carbon footprint. But the ecologist Dickson Despommier has been advocating a technological
solution to this problem for several years. It’s an elegant approach
called the vertical farm. Imagine a greenhouse in
the middle of a city block. Okay, so far so good. Now imagine it’s a dozen stories tall. Vertical farms could
employ growing techniques that use no soil. With aeroponics, crop roots
are exposed to the air and are fed through a
moisturizing fertilizer mist. These approaches can cut back
up to 90% of the water needed compared to conventional farming. This idea is beautiful but
there’s some serious questions about the viability of
large-scale vertical farms and it all comes down to energy and cost. Now with a vertical farm, the floors above are gonna block some of the
sunlight for the floors below. And plants that are near a window are going to get more sunlight than plants that are at
the core of the structure. So to balance this all out and
to get healthy, even crops, you might have to use artificial lighting. But that takes a lot of
energy and it might mean that you’re generating a
carbon footprint so large that you could’ve just
shipped the crops in from a farm anyway. Advances in LED lighting may make large-scale
vertical farms possible. Industry research is
making LEDs more efficient all the time. And check this out, some
plants, like lettuce, don’t need the full
spectrum of visible light in order to thrive. This is where we get pink
houses, special facilities where red and blue
lights let plans thrive. And by cutting out the rest
of the visible spectrum, you save energy. Combine that with
innovative energy sourcing, like the kind proposed
by The Plant in Chicago. The vertical farmers behind
The Plant are already using self sustaining techniques
like aquaponics, wherein the plants get
the nutrients they need from the waste generated
by an on-site fish farm. But as far as the energy is concerned, they plan on using an anaerobic digester to produce bio-gas, a
renewable energy source, from 27 tons of food waste
generated every single day. They then burn the bio-gas
to power the lights that will grow the plants. But The Plant isn’t the
only place forging ahead with vertical farm systems. There’s already a successful
vertical farm in Singapore that’s three stories tall
and it’s called Sky Greens. It grows leafy vegetables on shelves that can rotate up towards the
ceiling like a Ferris wheel so each plant gets an
equal amount of sunlight. Here’s my question for you this week: if you were designing an
urban, agriculture environment, how would you do it and
what would you grow there? I wanna know your thoughts
in the comments below. And if you enjoyed this video, make sure you hit like and
subscribe to our channel. And if you’re hungry for more, fill yourself up with
these videos over here. (bok choy crunches)

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