International interest in sustainable urban ecosystems —especially vertical farming— is exploding, according to numerous market forecasts.
Valued around $2 billion in 2015, the global vertical farming market is projected to reach anywhere from $6 billion in 2022 to $10 billion by 2025, according to forecasting firms such as Research and Markets and Grand View Research.
The impetus to scale up vertical farming worldwide stems from two U.N. projections on population and urbanization: The world’s population is expected to grow to 9.6 billion people by 2050, and most of these people — 68 percent, according to the U.N.’s revised 2018 urbanization report — will live in cities.
Governments, urban planners and architects, researchers, investors and the entire world of agriculture are now exploring ways to make sure there will be abundant, high-quality, nutritious foods to feed such a growing population — while also conserving energy and water and reducing environmental damage.
To many observers, the future is bright, thanks to advances in greenhouse technologies such as hydroponics, aeroponics and aquaponics.
“These high-tech systems represent a paradigm shift in farming and food products and offer suitable and efficient methods for city farming,” Dr. Kheir Al-Kodmany, an urban planning scholar, wrote in the Buildings journal in February 2018.
Dr. Al-Kodmany and his colleagues at the University of Illinois at Chicago reviewed more than 100 sources about vertical farming research since 2010 and examined 15 vertical farming projects worldwide — including two rooftop farms in New York; four “low rise” farms in Michigan, Illinois and Tennessee; and six proposed “high rise” farms in Sweden, France, Canada and the Philippines.
“[H]ypothetically, if vertical farms were integrated in the city, they will be able to supply food for the entire population,” Dr. Al-Kodmany concluded. However, there are many challenges to address, including finding funding to build and sustain such projects; finding less costly ways to power facilities; and quickly assembling interdisciplinary research and collaborations on urban agriculture, he wrote in the Buildings article.
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