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The Inner Workings of Vertical Farming

Updated: Jun 27, 2021

By Channade Sampong

What is vertical farming?

Vertical farming is the practice of growing produce vertically. The produce is stacked vertically in layers and commonly integrated into structures like skyscrapers, shipping containers, or repurposed warehouses. By using controlled environment agriculture (CEA), the indoor farming conditions can easily be changed to have the perfect environment for producing a large supply of quality crops in a given space. To achieve this, there needs to be a physical layout, proper lighting, a growing medium, and sustainability features.

This is an image of a tower with plants on the balconies of each floor or story; it is one example of how vertical farming can be done.

Types of Growing Mediums

In the practice of vertical farming, there are three types of growing mediums to choose from for plants to flourish. Selecting the proper growing medium for your environment is crucial to the success of raising plants.

Aeroponics- a developed version of hydroponic systems where plants are nourished with nutrient rich mist.

Aquaponics- a sustainable system to raise fish and vegetables. This method of farming works through the means of raising this food in nutrient-rich water to produce them fresh.

Hydroponics- a system where alternatives for soil support the plant’s roots in nutrient-rich water to allow farmers to grow food anywhere in the world at any time of the year with fewer resources.

1. An image of a hydroponic system 2. An image of an aeroponic system 3. An image of an aquaponic system (

The History behind Vertical Farming

Although the global use of this type of farming is still new, it has been practiced since 600 BC in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon which consisted of a stacked vaulted terrace with various different plants. The Gardens most likely had an irrigation system to carry water from the Euphrates River to the pool at the top. Another example of early vertical farming was in 1150 AD, vertical farming was used by the Aztecs by a form of hydroponics or chinampas to raise plants in marshy areas. Chinampas are constructed rafts layered with mud using the soil from the bottom of the lake. They were then drifted into the lake for the crops to grow upward.

After centuries of discoveries, hydroponic systems were incorporated in World War II to produce tons of vegetables. Decades later, Inside the 1964 Vienna International Horticulture Exhibition, vertical farming in the form of a tall glass tower was displayed and 1989 was when farming systems where plant life is cultivated in open air was introduced. Ten years after 1989, in 1999, the concept of the modern vertical farm was developed by Dr. Dickson Despommier and his students to feed the New York population through the use of multi story buildings.

In 2006, the Japanese company developed a light network that balances emissions to increase the return rate of vegetables. By 2009, the first modern vertical farm was built in Sky Green Farms in Singapore consisting of more than 100 towers that grew green vegetables using sunlight and captured rainwater.

1. A painting of the Hanging Gardens from the Ancient Babylonian Empire 2. A painting of the Aztecs’ practice of vertical farming by a hydroponic growing medium, also known as chinampas.

Top Vertical Farming Facilities

  1. Aero Farms Newark, NJ

  2. Plenty South San Francisco

  3. Green Spirit Farms New Buffalo, MI (via Twitter Green Spirit Farms)

  4. Bowery Farming Kearny, NJ & Nottingham, MD

  5. Bright Farms Selinsgrove, PA; Wilmington, OH; Rochelle, IL; Elkwood, VA; Hendersonville, NC

Benefits to Vertical Farming Drawbacks to Vertical Farming - Crops can grow year-round - Costly

- Less exposure to chemicals - Certain plants are not well suited for vertical farming

- High quality food - Difficulties with pollination

- Less land to produce more - Traditional farming is still heavily used

food than traditional farming

Projections for the future

Despite its drawbacks, the practice of Vertical farming seems to be promising in the near future. By 2050, there will be an increasing demand for vertical farming, the global market is expected to be six times bigger in 2026, and new and more developments. Although traditional farming is well established today, vertical farming is spreading nationally and globally and could be the new practice for tomorrow.

Work Cited

Barth, B. (2018, July 26). How does Aeroponics Work? Modern Farmer.

Beck, C. (2017, November 28). A Beginner's Guide to Vertical Farming. Eco Warrior Princess.

Crumpacker, M. (2018, October 19). A Look at the History of Vertical Farming. Medium.

Fearon, R. (2020, February 27).Vertical Farming: Raising Agriculture’s Potential and Lowering its Environmental Impact. Discovery.

LeBlanc, R. (2020, December 17). What You Should Know About Vertical Farming. Small Business.

Picture Sources:


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