#DitchTheDesk: What is Vertical Farming?

A photo of 2 people in PPE working in a vertical farm. What is Vertical Farming?

Do you dream of breaking free from the ordinary and embracing a wilder side? We invite you to join the #DitchTheDesk movement and embark on a journey to reshape the very fabric of our planet with a fulfilling career in agri-food.

Looking to make a future-focused, innovative impact on growing? Vertical Farming might just be the ticket for you!

What is Vertical Farming?

Vertical farming is an innovative approach to agriculture that involves growing crops in vertically stacked layers, usually in controlled environments. These futuristic farms don’t just exist in rural greenhouses, they can be found in city centres, underground tunnels, and shipping containers and scientists are even looking into concepts around huge vertical farm skyscrapers. This method of farming employs soilless farming techniques such as hydroponics, aeroponics, and aquaponics, which use nutrient-infused water or mist instead of soil to grow plants. Despite the many advantages of vertical farming, it’s important to acknowledge its significant energy consumption, a downside that often counteracts its sustainability benefits. Therefore, the agri-food industry is on a quest for tech wizards, engineering sharks, and problem-solving geniuses to pioneer sustainable technologies that will reduce energy use and shape the future of vertical farming, making it truly environmentally friendly.

The Importance

  • Sustainability:  Vertical farming has the potential to drastically reduce land and water usage, with some systems using up to 95% less water than traditional farms.
  • Urbanisation: As the global population continues to grow, there is a pressing need to produce more food in smaller spaces. The farming method is a viable solution, turning urban spaces into productive farmlands.
  • Climate Change Resilience: Unlike traditional farming, vertical farming isn’t at the mercy of unpredictable weather patterns or natural disasters. It provides a controlled environment that allows for year-round growth, regardless of outside conditions.
  • Food Security: Vertical farming can be a local solution for food production, reducing reliance on long-distance transportation and thus improving food security and reducing carbon emissions.
  • Energy Use: Despite these benefits, Vertical Farming can use between 30-176 kWh per kg more than greenhouses, meaning that future food leaders will be responsible for developing the growing method to be more efficient through renewable sources of energy, or by producing their own clean energy.

The Skills 

As a cutting-edge field, vertical farming requires a diverse set of skills, some of which include:

Research and Innovation

The field of vertical farming is still evolving, and continuous research is necessary to improve existing systems and practices. This requires skills in conducting scientific research, staying updated with the latest agricultural technology, and the ability to innovate and adapt to ever-changing conditions.

Engineering and Design

Besides basic mechanical and electrical engineering skills, vertical farming also demands specialised knowledge in areas like lighting design for indoor farming, climate control systems, and vertical infrastructure design, automation, sensors, and controlled-environment systems. These areas of knowledge all require the engineering skills that will be vital to building efficient vertical farms.

Problem-Solving and Critical Thinking

In an industry as dynamic as agriculture and farming, problems are inevitable. Skills in critical thinking and problem-solving are crucial to address the current and future challenges that may arise, from optimising energy use to managing plant diseases. It’s all about finding effective and sustainable solutions to ensure the farm’s productivity and sustainability.

Data Analysis

Vertical farms generate a lot of data. Skills in data collection, interpretation, and application will help optimise crop yields and improve system efficiency.

Sustainability Practices

As the aim is to produce food with minimal impact, an understanding of and passion for sustainability practices, waste management, and renewable energy systems is important.