13 Disadvantages of Vertical Farming

1. Juli 2022

Vertical farming is one of the most promising technologies of our time. However, in addition to many advantages, vertical farming also brings with it some disadvantages. We have summarized these for you here:

Experts wanted

Since a vertical farm is quite a complex system, an expert person is usually needed to set up this farm. Since they are mostly hydroponic, other factors have to be considered than in a conventional farm.

In addition, vertical farming is a relatively new field, and as a result, there are few people who already have experience with it. Therefore, it might be difficult to find qualified personnel.

However, it doesn't always take experts to try their hand at hydroponic farming. With this indoor greenhouse, you can get started right away.**

High investment cost

Due to the high complexity of building a profitable plant, the upfront investment is quite high. Therefore, when planning the farm must be careful about what decisions you make. Once you have decided on a concept, it is difficult to change it after the construction of the plant and can lead to an unexpected financial burden.

For your first own farm the investment doesn't have to be big at all. Coco sticks & net baskets are cheap to buy!**

High running costs

The running costs should be calculated before the plant is built.
Expert personnel is needed to take care of the plant as well as the health of the plants. The resulting high personnel costs can jeopardize the economic profitability of the company.  Due to the high throughput of plants, i.e. the permanent harvesting and "seeding", the space should be used optimally.

High power consumption

If you run a vertical farm completely indoors, 100% of the light must be artificially fed. So the cost of electricity, even with LED lamps, will be very high.

Since a large part of our energy is still generated from coal, the question must be asked here as to how sustainable such a farm actually is.

Photo by laura s / Unsplash

Still feel like building your own hydroponic farm? To get started, we recommend these lettuce plants.**

High maintenance

But it is not only electricity and personnel costs that need to be considered when it comes to the cost model for a vertical farm.  Due to the high complexity, as well as the continuous operation of the plant, components will break down over the useful life and need to be replaced or serviced.

Inattention can lead to pest infestation

Although a vertical farm is a closed system, i.e. no foreign organisms enter, it can still happen that employees unknowingly bring in pests. This usually leads to infestation of all plants.

Therefore, special care must be taken when cleaning and disinfecting beforehand.

Problems with pollination

The closed system of a vertical farm at best ensures that no pests get in, but also that there are no insects there. This leads to a big problem, pollination. In nature, a wide variety of insects take on this job and fly from flower to flower, packed with pollen.

However, since these insects are absent from a vertical farm, pollination must be carried out by hand to ensure a successful harvest. A very delicate task.

Here you will find our recommendation for a hydroponic fertilizer.**

All regulatory requirements must be met

Anyone who wants to produce and distribute food must meet all requirements of the local health or regulatory agency. If this is done without prior notification, heavy penalties may be imposed.

It is therefore advisable to contact the relevant authorities in advance to avoid misunderstandings.

The technology is not yet mature

Although the future of vertical farming seems bright, the technology of this young industry is simply not mature yet.  Currently, a lot of time and money has to be invested in order to build up a profitable plant.

Those who already take the path towards vertical farming may have an early-start advantage, but must also accept the (still) high costs.

Infrastructure for further processing is missing

The idea of growing plants in cities through vertical farming sounds great. This saves transport routes and reduces food waste. Unfortunately, however, the infrastructure for direct processing of the harvest is usually lacking. So the plants often have to be transported several kilometers to be packaged.

To make this technology truly sustainable and environmentally friendly, the infrastructure around vertical farming must grow with it.

Profitable only for a handful of plants

Unfortunately, so far there are only a handful of plants that can be grown well in a vertical farm. This is due to the relatively high cost of growing a plant. Cheap foods like potatoes are simply not worth it (yet).

So currently, plants with high economic potential should be chosen.

Technological failures could lead to major problems

Another problem with vertical farming is its heavy dependence on technology. If the irrigation system or electricity fail, this can cause massive damage to the plants.

It is therefore worthwhile to protect the connected technology several times in order to prevent a total failure.

People in rural regions could lose their livelihoods

In many rural regions, people are still heavily dependent on conventional agriculture.  If we were to switch completely to vertical farming overnight, a good 250,000 farms in Germany would face extinction.

Although vertical farming creates many new jobs, farmers should be given the opportunity to participate in it through retraining or conversion.

Sources:

Authors, A., & Kurt Benke http://orcid.org/0000-0002-7812-3671 & Bruce Tomkins. (2017, May 24). Future food-production systems: Vertical farming and controlled-environment agriculture. Retrieved November 03, 2020, from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15487733.2017.1394054
Kalantari, F., Mohd Tahir, O., Mahmoudi Lahijani, A., & Kalantari, S. (2017, October 11). A Review of Vertical Farming Technology: A Guide for Implementation of Building Integrated Agriculture in Cities. Retrieved November 03, 2020, from https://www.scientific.net/AEF.24.76
29 Major Pros & Cons Of Vertical Farming. (2020, August 02). Retrieved November 03, 2020, from https://environmental-conscience.com/vertical-farming-pros-cons/
Banerjee, C., & Adenaeuer, L. (2013, November 9). Up, Up and Away! The Economics of Vertical Farming. Retrieved November 03, 2020, from http://www.macrothink.org/journal/index.php/jas/article/view/4526

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Tillmann Stickler

Wort-Jongleur mit dem Anspruch euch wissenschaftlich fundierte, aber verständliche Artikel über den Planeten Erde, Landwirtschaft und Ernährung zu präsentieren.