Articles, Blog

Vertical Farms and the Future of Agriculture

August 13, 2019

– [Narrator] The food of the future has nowhere to go but up. (dubstep music) Let’s say you’re about to take a bite out of a fresh, delicious mango. Mango. Let’s say you’re about to take a bite out of a fresh, delicious bok choy. (bok choy crunches) Do you ever stop to wonder where all that fresh
plant matter comes from? Farms are a big reason why our
species has been able to grow over the last 10,000 years. But modern agriculture comes
with some pretty big drawbacks. For one thing, it requires a lot of water; up to 70% of our fresh
water goes to agriculture. And then, it depends a lot on the weather. Unseasonable temperatures
or long droughts, like what we see in
California, or flooding, can damage billions of
dollars worth of crops. And then there’s the fact that
farms are often very far away from where the people are. So the food you eat may
travel thousands of miles on trucks, ships, even airplanes, meaning that those leafy greens have a pretty hefty carbon footprint. But the ecologist Dickson Despommier has been advocating a technological
solution to this problem for several years. It’s an elegant approach
called the vertical farm. Imagine a greenhouse in
the middle of a city block. Okay, so far so good. Now imagine it’s a dozen stories tall. Vertical farms could
employ growing techniques that use no soil. With aeroponics, crop roots
are exposed to the air and are fed through a
moisturizing fertilizer mist. These approaches can cut back
up to 90% of the water needed compared to conventional farming. This idea is beautiful but
there’s some serious questions about the viability of
large-scale vertical farms and it all comes down to energy and cost. Now with a vertical farm, the floors above are gonna block some of the
sunlight for the floors below. And plants that are near a window are going to get more sunlight than plants that are at
the core of the structure. So to balance this all out and
to get healthy, even crops, you might have to use artificial lighting. But that takes a lot of
energy and it might mean that you’re generating a
carbon footprint so large that you could’ve just
shipped the crops in from a farm anyway. Advances in LED lighting may make large-scale
vertical farms possible. Industry research is
making LEDs more efficient all the time. And check this out, some
plants, like lettuce, don’t need the full
spectrum of visible light in order to thrive. This is where we get pink
houses, special facilities where red and blue
lights let plans thrive. And by cutting out the rest
of the visible spectrum, you save energy. Combine that with
innovative energy sourcing, like the kind proposed
by The Plant in Chicago. The vertical farmers behind
The Plant are already using self sustaining techniques
like aquaponics, wherein the plants get
the nutrients they need from the waste generated
by an on-site fish farm. But as far as the energy is concerned, they plan on using an anaerobic digester to produce bio-gas, a
renewable energy source, from 27 tons of food waste
generated every single day. They then burn the bio-gas
to power the lights that will grow the plants. But The Plant isn’t the
only place forging ahead with vertical farm systems. There’s already a successful
vertical farm in Singapore that’s three stories tall
and it’s called Sky Greens. It grows leafy vegetables on shelves that can rotate up towards the
ceiling like a Ferris wheel so each plant gets an
equal amount of sunlight. Here’s my question for you this week: if you were designing an
urban, agriculture environment, how would you do it and
what would you grow there? I wanna know your thoughts
in the comments below. And if you enjoyed this video, make sure you hit like and
subscribe to our channel. And if you’re hungry for more, fill yourself up with
these videos over here. (bok choy crunches)


  • Reply upinder bindra November 5, 2014 at 5:27 pm

    Wow first time first

  • Reply Laruschack November 5, 2014 at 6:19 pm

    what about fusion energy? that is comming near future! and it is virtually infinite clean energy!

  • Reply Shawn Man X November 5, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    What about solar as an every source?

  • Reply ratgreen November 5, 2014 at 7:33 pm

    Give it a few years, LEDs will be incredibly efficient, solar panels will be incredibly efficient and batteries will be incredibly efficient. Then growing sustainable amounts of crops from aeroponics will become a 'thing'

  • Reply ZyklonButterfy November 5, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    Forget sunlight genetically modify plants to get their energy form electrical outlets directly and grow plants in the dark.

  • Reply Joey Lopez November 5, 2014 at 8:13 pm

    What about mirrors directing sunlight thru holes in the ceiling could maybe solve the problem of light nutrition

  • Reply Aaron Gaddes November 5, 2014 at 8:18 pm

    Why don't they just use mirrors to bounce and direct the sunlight from the top/sides of the building to each floor?

  • Reply L Vamanara November 5, 2014 at 9:54 pm

    isnt vertical farming a joke from brass eye?

  • Reply SCtester November 5, 2014 at 10:05 pm

    The beginning seen was just awesome. Also, it was one of my favorite episodes yet. Awesome job! (:

  • Reply Talha Tariq November 5, 2014 at 10:26 pm

    U deserve 100000 subscribers also it would be awsome if u made a vid with science friction the channel nwme of this guy called rusty ward he does stuff on superpowers maybe u could talk about how to give yourself superpowers in the future. He could really boost your number of subscribers. Please think about it and reply yes or no.

  • Reply Slaughtz November 5, 2014 at 10:42 pm

    I don't know about urban, but my initial thought was layered farms, in the form of a pyramid, going upwards. Those other ideas in the video sound better though.

  • Reply Cthulhu the Omnipotent November 6, 2014 at 12:26 am

    So if all of our [USA] farms go vertical, what will basically 90% of the Midwest be used for?  

  • Reply Richard November 6, 2014 at 12:41 am

    The original green tower would've been my first guess. My idea is a large tower that uses traditional hydroponics (or the advanced aeroponics as mentioned in the beginning of the episode) for the top and sides of the facility, and use a fermentation chamber in the basement to power "pink house" lighting in the center. 

    If you need someone for the fermentor, I'm your guy 😉

  • Reply Jod Life November 6, 2014 at 1:11 am

    why is he wearing two watches 

  • Reply Morph Verse November 6, 2014 at 1:17 am

    There are concepts that people can have their own mini glowing glass box to grow their vegetables and fruit with LED lighting and cheaper.

    I can see those techniques being used in grocery stores, home and vertical farms.

    And eradicate the whole food scarcity..

  • Reply WolfRider November 6, 2014 at 1:32 am

    Lop I learm a lot from ur videos and I would have my fa so people could see how a farm workws

  • Reply ZZDaikun November 6, 2014 at 1:34 am

    I'd probably grow some bok choy.

  • Reply Alex H November 6, 2014 at 1:42 am

    I love your vids!

  • Reply Page of Rage November 6, 2014 at 2:54 am

    With the bubble design- poke a hole through the center and make as much of the structure out of glass as you can. Also, stability might be an issue. Giant chains. Boom. I'm a genius.

  • Reply simon marshall November 6, 2014 at 3:13 am

    i dunno if this is possible but what if they had a core of light made with really bright algae (genetically engineered of course) and used that to light the middle?

  • Reply Kitsune Ken November 6, 2014 at 3:24 am

    you should have said "meh" at the end like a goat! 😀

  • Reply Del McWilliams November 6, 2014 at 10:10 am

    Out of curiosity couldn't you use a simple mirror system to fix the lighting problem or solar energy either would save energy

  • Reply David D November 6, 2014 at 5:53 pm

    We could capitalize on the unused sides of buildings that already exist. Or add mirrors on blank solid walls to shine on a less exposed area.

  • Reply Vince C November 6, 2014 at 8:07 pm

    hell ya i have already started an #aquaponic  vertical  #windowfarm  of my own.

  • Reply ComatoseNinja November 7, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    Aquaponics, terra preta, vertical farming or tower gardening, sonic bloom technics, or back to Eden gardening methods. Which do you guys think are the best?

  • Reply Science stephen November 7, 2014 at 8:39 pm

    The solution is bugs they take less water and food to raise they provide more protiein then say beef people ate bugs before us and they're are still people eating bugs in other cultures

  • Reply josh matos November 7, 2014 at 11:10 pm

    This channel inspires me to keep up with my engineering dreams! Keep posting awesome stuff :D!!! 

  • Reply Johnson Chu November 8, 2014 at 4:54 am

    You should have showed this to matthew mcconaughey, interstellar would have been a bit different.

  • Reply TheWolfHowling November 8, 2014 at 5:58 pm

    Maybe to get light into the center of the structure, some to the upper floors could be more donut shaped? And the hole the the middle could passively collect rain water like a bucket or barrel. Or maybe they could using Hybrid Solar Lighting, where solar collectors transit the sunlight through fiber optic cables into the building but have electrical lights as well as backup

  • Reply HowStuffWorks November 9, 2014 at 8:56 pm

    Modern agriculture comes with some pretty big drawbacks, but vertical #farming could be the solution we're looking for. Learn what that might look like on the large-scale in this @FW: Thinking episode.

  • Reply Sven Vercammen November 10, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    If I where to design an urban agriculture environment I would make it a Tetrahedron or Triangular Prism, making it so that is uses an optimal angle of the sun, and depending on the side, choose the vegetable's depending on it's need of sunlight.  Different floors would also make for different needs, and make my choice of plant accordingly

  • Reply Ken Fromchicago November 10, 2014 at 6:18 pm

    What if they used mirrors to reflect sunlight from the edges of floors to plants in the center of the floors? Could that solve the vertical farm sunlight problem?

  • Reply harshkhad November 10, 2014 at 6:36 pm

    Food grown artificially can never match the power of natural growth.
    By power, I mean the food could lack in certain nutrients or could be lacking in some other thing which humans might not even have thought about.

  • Reply livefromhollywood194 November 11, 2014 at 10:44 pm

    Vertical Farms, AKA, melon farm tower designs, invented by monkey farm ages ago? Fish farms, as in the AFK fishing farm that Panda developed back when 1.7 came out?
    Minecraft had the advances you're discussing YEARS ago.

  • Reply Sara Rabinkowska November 12, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    Agree that vertical farming is the future of agriculture, especially if we think about cities and places where we have no enough space and conditions. Check out this article for more informations about vertical farming 🙂

  • Reply Bruno Alfon November 15, 2014 at 5:03 pm

    Legendas em Português!
    Go! Go! Go! 😀

  • Reply susheel kumar bhargav November 16, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    As far as my country is concerned I would construct a vertical farm in the city centre, use adaptive solar panels in the nearby area to balance sunlight and obviously aquaponics to use the waste produced by the city.. the architecture will be similar to Green architecture and cybertecture

  • Reply heino dahmen November 16, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    very nicely said. from the east of africa comes a group with a brillant idea to make future generations aware and responsive to container farming! it is called " ONE I-POT PER CHILD" check them out on facebook   —  FundiKipusa—– teaching children in schools the technology that we need in the future is the best way forward. Give all children in the world one and the same thing to talk about, regardless of race or religion!! get that going, because what ever the future will bring. Air, Water and Food are not optinal

  • Reply K P November 18, 2014 at 5:11 pm

    My rating for this video is going nowhere but up !

  • Reply Timothy De Vita November 19, 2014 at 4:25 am

    Where would the light source be?  If it's electrical, then it's not economical. 

  • Reply Zypofaeser November 21, 2014 at 11:56 am

    We could have artificial farms powered by nuclear. It would be zero CO2 food factories!

  • Reply revcletis November 21, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    Artificial lighting ?? Maybe . How about using  light pipes from the top of bldg to the bottom 🙂 The concept is a variation of the following idea :

    Solar bottle lights in a Ugandan kitchen | "Plastic bottle light"

  • Reply Stuart Brown November 23, 2014 at 11:01 pm

    In terms of vertical farms, energy is the critical factor, so what if solar electricity were to get really cheap, well solar can harvest the suns energy 50 times, as much per acre hectare, as biofuels production, it needs no water. So we harvest the suns energy, indirectly from agriculturally and largely residentially worthless desert land, at 50 times the efficiency of agriculture, with no fertiliser, pesticides, herbicides, fuel for transport apart from installation. The energy goes to the power grid, where we want the food, yes is the city, which are largely near the ocean, desalination gives us the water, for hydroponics, LEDs the other side of the photo voltaic quantum circuit, here passes that energy to the plants at high efficiency. With all that energy, smelting low grade metal ores, into high grade metal, becomes very cheap, we pass that metal through a 3D printer, to make the structural beams of the vertical farms. Other 3D printers make the walls, no need for windows, the LEDs provide all the lighting, people we've seen this before, the first industrial revolution, was parallel by the agricultural revolution, brick works, structural steel and other factory production. In the second industrial revolution, 1915-25, cars and trucks replaced horses, with massive crop savings, on food for animal feed, reduced food spoilage from faster transport, canning, more food saved from agricultural animals, beasts of burden. Huge expansion of artificial fertiliser and its transport, the cities construction boom, urbanisation, which is actually very much more efficient, concentrated plumbing, sewerage, electricity, housing, transport, communication. Of course as the market saturation point occurred, then the great depression happened, the great stagnation has lulled us into thinking history is slow, but once a century, things change fast. Because of changes in energy use, the math of Newton, Maxwell, the Quantum physicists, leads every century or so to a decade of intense industrial revolution, theory, novelty, maturity, market dominance and then saturation. Remember solar is one hundred times cheaper than in 1977, per kWh, employs more people than the automotive industries in the US, more people work in solar in Australia, than in the coal mining industry. Just a block of a quarter of Australia's desert is 1,000 by 1,000 kilometres, that's a trillion square metres, enough to produce a trillion tons of liquid hydrogen a year, or 2,500 times as much energy, as Australia uses every year, we only have 24 million people, on a huge continent that is 75% desert. When those huge light aircraft, using light, cheap, efficient liquid hydrogen arrive, spewing their passengers on to high speed rail, into the cities, rental prices will be even worse, even with 3D printed housing. I wonder, people under desert solar farms, draining water from the desalination plants, air conditioner going all day, in 3D printed houses, maybe the grand depression won't be so bad, when market saturation arrives. Of course if we make an off planet economy, market saturation won't arrive for another century, still we may be able to use the Ort cloud of comets, as a staging area, for getting out of the solar system, there's an outside chance, we could use vacuum energy, quantum computing to open wormholes, to other universes. Last 2 sentences, largely for fun.

  • Reply Michael Hartman November 30, 2014 at 11:52 pm

    Instead of a "thick" cylindrical building a thinner south facing "wall" could be constructed. A east-south-west facing "C" shape might also be built. Glass might be used for the floors and mirrors or glass for the walls. Not all plants need full sun so those plants might be grown on the north side. Rain capture on the roof might aid in some of the watering needs.

  • Reply Bob BaconOFFICIAL December 11, 2014 at 2:26 am

    I think vertical farms should be triangles

  • Reply BJP December 12, 2014 at 12:02 am

    Maybe this is a REALLY derpy question but could mirrors be used to convey sunlight around the building? If not, why?

  • Reply Matthew Ulsenheimer December 12, 2014 at 6:57 pm

    A much better way to light the farm is to use meres and sky lights.

  • Reply Rafeeky December 16, 2014 at 9:59 pm

    Nice! Well said!

    Though I gotta say, we don't need artificial light, Id use mirrors running down the centre and/or maybe fibre optics. 

  • Reply AzakaBlue January 31, 2015 at 4:09 am

    Omega Gardens concept is amazing  if you havent heard of it look it up. it solve alot of the power, lighting, and water issues. also produce a greater yield of crop 

  • Reply ComicalSkate March 5, 2015 at 2:47 am

    I would maybe have the core of the building clear glass open to sunlight at the top and have mirrors positioned throughout the core to bring light to the plants farther from the windows and closer to the core

  • Reply SuperDonkey12347 March 15, 2015 at 3:28 pm

    They could make the building hollow and use the center for storing water for the plants. They could put fish in it to produce fertilizer and humans could eat them in the nearby city. Since the building could be hollow the wouldn't be a need for sunlight in the middle. So the building would produce fertilizer, agriculture, fresh fish, and water storage without needing much sunlight.

  • Reply Ekaterina Kova March 16, 2015 at 4:59 am

    I hope this will become the reality, not only can we save plenty of forests from being cut down, but we may even give back some farm land back to nature.

  • Reply Rowena Austria April 5, 2015 at 4:49 am

    My thesis is about urban farm. Can you please suggest reliable sources for me to use?

  • Reply Ronan Campbell April 9, 2015 at 9:38 pm

    if you go to "envisioning emerging technology".com  it says vertical farming will arrive in 2025-2026.

  • Reply Nicole Guyot May 8, 2015 at 4:50 pm

    Tower Gardens the only way to go!!! There are lots of big growers using them. Uses only 10% of water then conventional growing.

  • Reply Tom Miller May 8, 2015 at 6:58 pm

    With today's advances in fiber optics, is it possible to attach a large sunlight collector on the roof and convey that light, via fiber optics, to light disbursing fixtures throughout the building?

  • Reply destroyka777 May 9, 2015 at 12:41 am

    I think the vertical farm is a VERY viable solution provided you don't try to reinvent nature. If we took design cues from nature, it would be unnecessary to use artificial lighting, or a very minimal amount of it. Take a look at the pine tree, for example. The trunk of the tree is the main artery, so to speak, through which all of the nutrients and water necessary are transported. The trunk also supports all of the branches. The branches are arranged in such a manner that each branch (ideally) gets sufficient sunlight to generate energy via photosynthesis. If you look at how the branches are arranged, the bottom branches have the most needles to the outside, and the branches above sit closer to the tree so as to not block the bottom branches from getting sunlight. As you go up the tree, the branches sit closer and closer.

    If we built a vertical farm like a pine tree, it would likely look as follows. The service elevator, water and nutrient pipes, and other utilities would all run up the central column. At the base of the tree, where it is largest, is where all of the various preparation facilities would be. As you go up, you're servicing less and less plant life as there is less and less room to grow, so too does the column shrink. It would be a serious of ring like platforms built around the service column that each shrink in size as you go up.

  • Reply Lesya Sparrow June 12, 2015 at 5:47 pm

    GMO Foods Cause CANCER + read WAVEgenetic + БЕСПЛОДИЕ Советую читать "Энциклопедию умного сыроедения" Гладков С.М. ( в 1части книги дана информация о ГМО) + "Лингвистико-волновой геном" Гаряев, "Семена разрушения" Уильяма Энгдаля + "Что мы едим?…" Ермакова И.В., а также док. фильмы "Мир согласно Монсанто" (2008г.) и "Трансгенизация" (2007г.)

  • Reply Zaur525 August 20, 2015 at 7:27 am

    there systems that can send sunlight directly via optic cables and mirrors. so can put one collector on the roof that will send lite itself through entire structure without using a single watt of energy!

  • Reply Karissa Wong November 3, 2015 at 1:11 am

    can't you just put like a giant hole through the center of the building or use mirrors to direct sunlight from different times of the day?

  • Reply Anthony November 3, 2015 at 7:03 pm

    I wouldn't be growing GMOed crops!!!

  • Reply Shiya Varathan December 5, 2015 at 2:26 pm

    YO PEOPLE!! GO HERE–> FOR THE Deer Hunter CHEAT THAT WORKS! IM USING IT 🙂 Vertical Farms and the Future of Agriculture

  • Reply Justin Gamino December 30, 2015 at 7:45 pm

    This idea not only can produce food but also energy. Recycle your water, light up LEDs instead of bulbs and use solar energy for instance.

  • Reply Liam Yardley January 4, 2016 at 2:59 pm

    my favorite idea would be to introduce this method or variation of it to be set up vertical farms over road ways so you can literately drive underneath these plants bringing some much needed green into our citys and highways the cost wouldn't be to great using light weight materials and considering the water needed is 90% less then conventional farms it would be a sound government investment especially in arid climets.

  • Reply james McClelland February 15, 2016 at 4:07 am

    mirrors lots of mirrors

  • Reply Mike Holberger March 16, 2016 at 8:16 pm

    How about food balloons. Huge containers of warmed gas covered by a super light fibrous growing substrate. It absorbs water from the atmosphere and grows some sort of leafy green. When it accumulates enough biomass it sinks and lands somewhere in a food desert.

  • Reply Phoenix Blackdove July 31, 2016 at 6:10 am

    I think the towers would work better if they were a donut shape instead of a dome, for more solar aspects. Or bounce sunlight down through the middle via strategically placed reflective surfaces. Already available on a domestic scale for retro-fitting sky lights in buildings. It's called the Sun Tunnel.

    Grow a polyculture instead of monoculture crops. Put plants that thrive in semi-shade in the shadier sections and leave the full sun positions for plants that need it.

  • Reply Anythinggoes September 20, 2016 at 1:42 pm

    use mirrors to reflect the sunlight back at the center.

  • Reply atrinoc0207 September 29, 2016 at 3:18 am

    I'd go the opposite direction, underground, underground vertical farms (granted with advances in subterranean building and excavation) with genetically modified crops could produce all year round food by purifying waste water from the city above.

  • Reply John Wang March 24, 2017 at 11:13 pm

    Unless regulations and taxations are changed, urban vertical farms will always be converted to offices as soon as the labor market makes it more profitable to do so. Whether or not we have such farms depends not on technology but on changes in regulation.

  • Reply Babel Fish February 16, 2018 at 1:25 am

    Might a 'mushrooms in the middle' model work? That might possibly help with the 'getting the most light' opportunity. Mushrooms in the middle of vertical/stacked farms and photosynthesis-based life growing on the edges of the floors. Can mushrooms and lettuce be grown under similar conditions or are the conditions for growth so vastly different that one's thriving would far outweigh the other? Does mushroom growth emit nutrients that benefit the growth of surrounding plant life?

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