The world's biggest vertical farm is set to soon open in Scranton, Pennsylvania, with advocates claiming these innovative facilities represent the future of global agriculture.
While the vertical farm, which is scheduled to open in an industrial suburb of Scranton’s Lackawanna County in March, is only a single storey in height, its 3.25 hectares will come equipped with an industrial racking system comprised of four to five levels and will be capable of housing a staggering 17 million plants in total.
The construction of the vertical farm by Michigan’s Green Spirit Farms (GSF) will entail an investment of at least $27 million for the purchase of a large-scale industrial facility and is expected to bring around 100 jobs to the region.
The vertical farm, which by definition involves the cultivation of plants on vertically inclined surfaces instead of on the ground, will employ correct full spectrum induction lights to nurture a broad variety of foodstuffs on its multi-tier industrial racks, including tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, basil, strawberries and peppers.
As advocates of vertical farming as a sustainable practice, GSF’s operation places a heavy emphasis upon efficiency and recycling. The development of the company’s first vertical farm was prompted by a protracted drought which has beset many arable parts of America, and its facilities involve the extensive water recycling.
According to GSF research and development manager Daniel Kluko, the Scranton facility will use 98 per cent less water per unit of production than conventional ground-based cultivation methods because of the extensive recycling measures that vertical farming permits. These measures include the use of a dehumidifier to scour water from the air of rooms housing the plants, which also provides the bonus of reducing the incidence of humidity related problems such as leaf mould.
The farm will also take advantage of the latest networking technology, with comprehensive data on its performance accessible via smartphone.
Vertical farming has seen a surge in its popularity around the world, with advocates touting it as the future of agriculture on an increasingly urbanized planet due to the economies it achieves in terms of space and resource usage.
Agriculture could also become far more secure as a result of indoor vertical farming, which permits production during extreme weather conditions and obviates the need for herbicides or insecticides as long when properly monitored and tended.