Americans are asking for locally-grown and organic foods, but how can residents of cities and suburbs find nutrient-rich vegetables that aren’t trucked in from hundreds of miles away? Farmers markets provide part of the answer, but supply must meet demand. The decline of small family farms is well-known, and not everyone can afford the higher prices that are associated with organic farming. Then there’s bad weather, crop blight, and insect infestation. Factory farming may sound unappealing, but it feeds the nation.
Meanwhile, other parts of the planet are experiencing real hunger instead of unmet food source preferences. According to the United Nations, the world’s population will grow to 2.4 billion by the middle of the twenty-first century. Over 65% of all people will live in cities, which could make the challenge of feeding urban populations a pressing one. If floods, droughts, and other natural disasters continue to devastate rural farmlands, many people could face a food security crisis.
As Popular Science recently reported, however, indoor farms in urban and even suburban areas may provide the answer. For example, Green Sense Farms near Chicago is growing greens 365 days a year under climate-controlled and pesticide-free conditions. To make the most of his 30,000 square foot warehouse, owner Robert Colangelo grows vegetables in racks that are fed hydroponically, flooded with LED lights, and stacked 25-feet high. Spoilage is less because the market is local, and this reduces fuel and transportation costs, too.
Is indoor vertical farming the answer to food insecurity? Can this alternative to factory farming increase crop yields while reducing agriculture’s appetite for fuels, chemicals, and water? At the same time, could indoor vertical farming encourage more of the world’s people to eat a healthier, vegetable-rich diet instead of eating calorie-heavy, nutrient-poor fare that is contributing to the obesity epidemic and resultant health problems?
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