Is Vertical Farming the Future of Food?

Hey Planet vertical insect farming green crates stacked

Fix food to fix the climate crisis 

We are experiencing a sharp increase in the world population, and already in 2050 the population will have increased to around 9.1 billion, according to figures from the UN's agricultural organization, FAO. As we become more human beings, the demand for food production also increases.

Shouldn't we just start producing more food? The short answer is yes, but where? Even today, agriculture takes up far more space than what is good. In Denmark alone, more than 60% of our total area today goes to agriculture, and this affects the environment and biodiversity.

In addition to lack of space, agriculture is already one of the biggest CO2-emitters when we talk about fertilizer, irrigation, feeding, processing, deforestation and transport. An increase in these processes will also mean that we are adding more fuel to the fire.

New forms of agriculture

Fortunately, new and less demanding forms of agriculture are being developed and disseminated, which protect biodiversity and, under the right conditions, also the environment. An agriculture that is directed towards the clouds and does not claim large areas of land. This kind of agriculture is the so-called vertical farming. 

What is vertical farming?

Vertical farming is a kind of farming that is cultivated upwards, instead of outwards. It is typically in giant greenhouses or warehouses, where cultivation takes place in many layers. It is a very controlled form of farming where light, heat, humidity, irrigation and fertilizer are controlled carefully by electronic systems.

Instead of sunlight, the greenhouses are powered by artificial LED light, which mimics photosynthesis, which emits either white, red or blue light. Vertical farms that take place in greenhouses utilize the light and heat from the rays of the sun when it allows it.

In a small country like the Netherlands, this type of agriculture has been used for many years now. Today, the Dutch have broken a world record in the cultivation of tomatoes, as they can grow 90 kilos of tomatoes in just one square meter in vertical greenhouses per year!

Hey Planet's insects in vertical farms

At Hey Planet, we have also turned to The Netherlands. Here we have a partnership with the world's first and largest vertical farm for cultivation of Alphitobius Diaperinus, better known as the buffalo beetle.

Our insects are reared vertically, which requires a small amount of space. This means that land does not have to be cleared to set up an insect farm. In addition, farmed insects are fed with surplus and by-products such as grain from, for example, beer production, which solves another climate problem: food waste.

Isn't it a shame to stack live animals?

Wouldn’t it be crazy if we, as planet lovers, didn’t care about animal welfare? Our buffalo beetles live their best lives in their natural habitat, which are small dense spaces that are perfect for constructing a facility that does not require much space.

The buffalo beetle is bred in a tall drawer system that takes up incredibly little space compared to conventional farming. The plant is fully operational and can supply enough protein to feed a small town - all in an area smaller than most parking lots. 

Okay, vertical farming is great, but what's the catch?

Although there are many amazing environmental benefits of vertical farming, we can not run from the fact that there are still some challenges. The most important ones are the energy consumption, which is used to keep light and heat running 24 hours a day. That being said, we are constantly seeing a development in technology, including also of LED bulbs, and there are constantly new models that use less power and emit less heat.

Another challenge is a matter of taste. Vegetables grown in vertical farms are thought to be too artificial and tasteless. An explanation is that when foods are grown in nature, they form proteins, starches, sugars, dyes and alcohol, to send signals to the outside world. For example, fruits and vegetables form seeds so that animals can eat and spread them. When nature moves in sterile conditions, it will no longer be necessary to form these substances, as the plant does not have to send signals to the same extent. Here it is nice and safe, and no danger at hand. The result is foods that may not provide the same culinary experience that wildlife foods could provide.

We assure you that the buffalo beetles are the tastiest you’ve ever had.

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