Vertical farming at Aerofarms, New Jersey

Vertical farming: Transforming agriculture from floor to ceiling

A former steel factory 45 minutes from downtown Manhattan has been converted into the world’s largest vertical farm, tackling the global food crisis head on. Machines have been replaced with leafy greens and herbs, grown floor to ceiling in a 6,500 square meters high-tech version of a farm.

Aerofarms has taken the concept of urban farming to the next level. No one gets their hands dirty here, where food is grown in controlled conditions without sunlight or soil. Instead highly water-efficient aeroponics mist the plants and LED lighting enables photosynthesis.

Aerofarms wants to transform agriculture and bring the farm to where the consumer is. “Our mission is to build farms in cities all over the world,” David Rosenberg, the chief executive of the 12-year old company, recently told The Huffington Post.

Globally, more and more people are living in urban areas, and it’s estimated that by 2050 two out of three people will be city dwellers. Vertical farming is one way to increase food production for growing city populations, without having to transport it far.

According to Aerofarms’ calculations, their aeropronics system, a process of growing plants in mist and without soil, draws significantly less water than conventional farming. It has up to 30 harvests a year and no pesticides or fertilizers are needed.

The downsides? It has high energy consumption and is not suited for cereals, root crops and many other vegetables. It’s an expensive model, and so far Aerofarms grows only high-value crops and herbs to make it commercially viable. But the company has financial backing to develop the concept even further. As David Rosenberg explains in the Huffington Post:

“We are very much building the infrastructure not to build one, two or three farms but to build 20, 30 or 50 farms.”