Carl Freer

The future is pink: Vertical pink farming harnesses technology to grow crops

Could vertical farming be the solution to feeding a growing population in a climate change impacted world?
By Carl Freer
When was the last time you stepped foot on a farm or even seen one? And more importantly, how dependent is your country on food imports?
Well-stocked supermarkets and grocery stores, easily accessible and widely available in many urban cities, perhaps mask the fact that food security is a very real issue that should be taken seriously. This is especially when you consider that there will be a 70 percent increase in the demand for food by 2050, according to UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment Dr. Thani Al Zeyoudi at the Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture held in Dubai in mid-February.
He also pointed out the main barrier to traditional food production that we’re currently facing: “Climate change is perhaps the greatest long-term challenge to farming; the increasing frequency of droughts and floods, changing rainfall patterns, steadily increasing surface temperatures and extreme weather phenomena will make food production increasingly difficult.” To put things in perspective, the World Bank says that climate change could cut crop yields by more than a whopping 25 percent.
Now, more than half of the world’s population live in towns and cities, and the United Nations predicts that by 2050, this number will swell to 9.6 billion. Undoubtedly, more efficient systems will be needed to feed these hungry urban areas, and environmentally sustainable farming is potentially our best bet.
Vertical pink farming could be the next disruptive thing in the world of agriculture. These farms use blue and red LED lighting to grow organic, pesticide-free, climate-controlled food indoors. Barely a few years old, it represents one of the latest breakthroughs in agricultural technology.
The science behind it is simple. Food grown traditionally is exposed to the full visible light spectrum through sunlight—red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet. However, scientists have found that you only need red and blue light for plant growth. And what do you get when you mix red and blue LED lights? Pink.
A typical vertical pink farm comprises multiple stories of neatly arranged rows of vegetables and often incorporate a hydroponic system and arrays of highly efficient red and blue LED lights. Setups such as these enable people to grow food underground or indoors all year round, in any climate, and in limited space. The entire process also uses less water as it just recirculates.
Leading agriculture’s pink revolution is, perhaps unsurprisingly, Japan. The numbers are pretty impressive—the country’s largest indoor vertical pink farm produces 10,000 heads of lettuce per day. That’s 100 times more per square foot than traditional methods! And this is achieved with 40 percent less power, 80 percent less food waste and 99 percent less water usage than outdoor fields.
And it’s fast catching on across Asia. The farm in question has already announced a new facility using the same technologies in the works in Hong Kong, with Mongolia, Russia, and mainland China on the agenda. As for the rest of the world, farmers in North America are definitely on board, with Green Sense Farm showing the way; it produces 4,000 cases of fresh produce in a week.

Less water, waste, energy and surface area needed, and high yield—I can see why we have seen so much success with this transformative indoor farming technique. And as with any new technology, costs should continue to go down over the years with higher adoption, so who knows? Perhaps every home might have its own vertical pink farm in the future. Plucking yourself a fresh head of lettuce may be as simple as reaching out your window in the future.

Carl Freer is the Chairman of The Freer Foundation.

Veestro is here to please with incredibly delicious meals that happen to be made from plants—fresh-frozen and waiting for you on your doorstep when you get home after a long day.

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