Is vertical farming the answer to our global food supply problem?

Industry News

The global population is estimated to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, with global demand for food set to increase by 60% as a result.

However, with the agricultural sector already heavily criticised for its contribution to global warming, and the sector vulnerable to climate change impacts, increasing global food production to feed an additional two million inhabitants using conventional models is no longer seen as viable.

Plant factories with artificial lighting (PFALs) – more widely known as vertical or indoor farms – are recognised as a promising model that protects food production from weather extremes, optimises yields and can reduce the overall impact of agriculture on the environment.

In their latest venture, two pioneers of indoor farming – Toyoki Kozai and Eri Hayashi – have collaborated with an impressive range of international experts to produce a new book: Advances in plant factories: New technologies in indoor
vertical farming

“Professor Toyoki Kozai and Dr Eri Hayashi have had a major influence on the advancement and global understanding of vertical farming,” says Christine Zimmermann-Lössl, Chairwoman of the Association for Vertical Farming, Germany.

“This new book addresses key topics such as energy modelling, the nutritional components of crops and spectral manipulation. We see tremendous value in this latest publication from Burleigh Dodds Science Publishing and are confident that it will become a standard reference book in this area,” she concludes.

The book provides an authoritative review of the latest research in the development and application of PFALs for a range of crop, including the application of machine vision, plant phenotyping and spectral imaging to monitor plant health and growth.

PFALs are viewed by many as a more resources-efficient production model with less environmental impact. For example, when compared to conventional open-field production, PFALs have been proven to reduce water consumption by 90% per kg of produce and pesticide and herbicide usage by almost 100%. And it’s the technology within the system that enables this.

“One of the core technologies of the PFAL derives from the use of an airtight and thermally insulated cultivation room with sensors for measuring all resource inputs, product outputs, environmental factors and plant traits or phenotype,” says Professor Toyoki Kozai, co-editor of this new book.

“This means that plant environmental factors can be controlled at an optimum point with minimum resource inputs and waste outputs, regardless of local weather, soil and ecosystem conditions,” he adds.

What makes this book particularly valuable is that it also addresses the continuing challenges that indoor farming faces.

The editors, along with the contributing authors, identify where more research and investment is required to tackle some of the biggest obstacles facing indoor farming, including the current rate of resource consumption (electricity, plastics and fertilisers), as well as the emission of greenhouse gases during the construction and operation of PFALs.

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