A new analysis forecasts the growing market for vertical farming – a way of producing food plants by growing them in a controlled environment in a vertically stacked system on a small farm footprint.
The new report, from P&S Market Research, suggests that between now and 2023, the global vertical farming market will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 24.2 percent to $6,372.5 million.
Vertical farming is a new type of food production that is moving from the science laboratory into commercial markets. The idea is literally “taking root,” with vertical farms “sprouting” all over the world.
Vertical farming grows plants in a stacked system in a controlled indoor environment on a small farm footprint. Image: AeroFarms
Controlled Environment Agriculture
Vertical farming uses Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) – an agricultural technology that allows the grower to control the crop’s environment.
CEA technologies include hydroponics, aquaculture, aquaponics, and greenhouse, and they control variables like light, temperature, humidity, pH, and nutrients. Hydroponics is the science of growing plants without soil.
One of the drivers of the growing vertical farming market is the revolution in lighting due to high efficiency LEDs that dramatically cut power costs.
CEA also offers the facility to computer-control the wavelength of the LED lights to match the growth phase of the plants.
An example of how LED technology is spurring growth in the vertical farming market can be seen in the joint venture between Philips Lighting and the Staay Food Group that is building Europe’s first large-scale vertical farm in Dronten, in the Netherlands.
Vertical farming is making greater use of LED lighting. Image: Philips Lighting
Other drivers and attractors that are spurring the commercial growth of vertical farming include: lower mapower costs, reliability (less dependence on climate), smaller footprint (farms can be located in urban areas), fewer food miles (the farms can be located nearer to consumer bases), zero use of pesticides, and considerably lower use of water.
Aeroponics fastest growing technology
The new report suggests that aeroponics is likely to be the fastest growing vertical farming technology in the next few years. This method does not use soil or an aggregate medium but grows the plants in an air or mist environment.
A typical aeroponics system has the plants growing on a cloth membrane with the roots growing below into a chamber filled with perforated tubes that spray the roots with a water mist containing nutrients and oxygen. It uses 95 percent less water than conventional field farming and no pesticides.
The report says that the global market for vertical farming “had a concentrated structure” in 2016, and lists some of the key players, including: AeroFarms, Agrilution, American Hydroponics, Everlight Electronics, Green Sense Farms, Illumitex, Philips, Sky Greens, Urban Crops, and Vertical Farm Systems.
Video – vertical farming
The following video from Stories summarizes the idea of vertical farming using the example of AeroFarms in Newark, NJ, who have developed their own “smart aeroponics” system.