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Vertical Farming: Concepts, Techniques & Its Effects on Food Production in India

According to the World Economic Forum, the rate at which India’s population is increasing suggests that India will become the most populous country before 2025. However, that puts a massive strain on food production.

Aarushi Chadha
Vertical Farming
Vertical Farming

The 11th Global Food Index report that was released in ‘The Economist’ showed deterioration in the global food environment for the third year consecutively. This report measures food security in developing and developed countries based on factors such as natural resources, crop resilience, quality of food, food safety, affordability, and availability.

According to the 11th Global Food Index, the reason behind the deterioration is the plummeting of food affordability, quality, and safety. In 2021, India was ranked at 71st position in the Global Food Security Index out of 113 countries. India’s poor ranking indicates the pressing challenge of food production in India, which is only going to increase with India’s growing population. Vertical farming is an alternative to growing fresh and natural products in opposition to increasing production by using more insecticides, fertilizers, and pesticides.

What is Vertical Farming?

Vertical Farming refers to a type of growing vegetables and fruits where the farmer takes control of the environment in which they grow by growing them in a modern commercial greenhouse. The crops are stacked vertically on shelves or tall pillars and LED lights replace sunshine. No pesticides are used because the crops are grown indoors and water is recycled through a closed loop.

Techniques of vertical farming  

There are three main techniques used in vertical farming. These are-

Hydroponics- Hydroponics is popularly used in most commercial vertical farms. In this system of vertical farming, plants are grown free of soil in nutrient solutions. The roots of the plants are submerged in the solution that is contained in a grow tray which is filled frequently throughout the day. Usually, the farmer will set a timer based on the size of the plants, the quality of water, and the nutrient requirements of the plants.

When the timer sets off, the grow tray is filled with the nutrient solution and then flooded using the water pump. Calcium nitrate, potassium nitrate, magnesium sulphate, and potassium sulphate are some of the essential nutrients used in the hydroponics system. It is also rich in micronutrients such as zinc, cobalt, manganese, iron, copper, chlorine, and boron.

Aeroponics- Aeroponic system uses air and very little water or mist to grow plants. It also doesn’t use soil to grow plants. Instead, the plant is suspended in air and its roots are misted with a nutrient solution on a continual basis with a fine mister. This ensures that the roots get sufficient oxygen.

Aeroponics vertical farming uses 90% less water than a hydroponics system and also grows the plants at a faster rate. Studies have also shown that the Aeroponics system reduces fertilizer usage by 60% and increases crop yields by 45 to 75%. Plus, plants grown in this system have a higher concentration of vitamins and minerals, making them more nutritious and healthier.

Aquaponics- Aquaponics is a combination of aquaculture or fish farming and hydroponics. In this system, the nutrients for the plants are supplied by the excreta of fishes which has a high nutrient content. On the other hand, the plants growing in the grow tray filter the water in which the fish live.

How can vertical farming affect the production of food in India?

In conventional farming, the fertilizers, pesticides, and insecticides used to increase crop yield and protect the crop have many environmental side effects. For instance, it makes the soil infertile and unable to properly retain water. This results in excessive use of water. The runoff from heavy use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and insecticides pollutes nearby water bodies and causes harm to the ecosystem.

Studies show that conventional farming is not going to meet the food requirements of the ever-growing population in India. However, vertical farming looks more promising. For starters, vertical farming can take place on rooftops, inside building, and doesn’t require a large land. Since plants are grown in an extremely controlled environment, there is less water consumption. Furthermore, water is recycled and saved.

Vertical farming allows the farmer to grow out-of-season vegetables and fruits easily, as factors such as temperature, sunlight, humidity, and water can be easily controlled. Pesticides are also not required because the plants grow indoors. Plus, vertical farming can easily take place inside city limits. Therefore, fresh vegetables and fruits produced can be delivered quickly because of less travel time. 

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