With booming populations to feed and less arable land to grow food on, food scarcity, something Thomas Robert Malthus predicted in 1798 and our children will feel the effects of in their lifetime, is one of the driving concerns behind the growing popularity of vertical farming, a modern agricultural concept where food is grown in stacks inside urban buildings using artificial lighting, climate control and other high-tech systems.
According to Jack Griffin, president of Metropolis Farms, the first vertical farm in Philadelphia, these farms are first steps to solving food scarcity problems. "We can grow 120,000 plants in 36 square feet," he explained.
Griffin told Philly.com that there are many advantages to growing in a city. The produce doesn't have to travel long distances and be refrigerated because they deliver in an one hour radius, and they don't have to worry about seasons as well because environmental conditions are always perfect inside the towers.
Besides being the first vertical farm in Philadelphia, Metropolis Farms is also the first vertical farm on a second floor and the first vegan certified farm in North America by the American Vegetarian Association, which means that they don't use any herbicides, pesticides, manure or any animal products.
Knowing what your food is grown in is very important for our health because when food is grown in manure, there is a chance bacteria can hitch a ride on the food. Griffin said, "According to the CDC, green leafy vegetables grown in manure is one of the top sources of food poisoning."
To protect their crops from pests, Metropolis Farms instead uses carnivore plants they have dubbed "terminator plants" to kill bugs. They plant them between each of their super towers so they can lure the bugs in with their scent and devour them.
Another benefit about his particular crops Griffin pointed out is that because they deliver to restaurants, and grocery stores mostly in a one hour radius, their produce is a lot fresher than those that travel long distance because the average vegetable loses 60 to 70 percent of its nutrition and taste during shipment.
To make their production even more sustainable, they have reduced energy output through the use of robotics and hope to be using solar energy soon as well.
Griffin added, "We can produce over 10 times the micro greens from the same space as a traditional micro green farm, while using half the energy and a minuscule amount of water."
Just opened last January, Griffin said that they are not shooting to be world's largest vertical farm. "Giant vertical farms have the same problems as large agriculture. We want to be largest network of farms. Our vision is to create a local network of farms partnering with people in the community."
"We want to grow farmers too. We want to bring back artisan farmers," he added.
They are hoping to set up farms in other Philadelphia area locations like University City and King of Prussia and to other cities like New York City, Washington D.C and Baltimore. They also want to eventually offer a noncommercial license for people to grow their vertical farms using Metropolis Farms' Revolution Vertical Farming Technology.
To learn more about Metropolis Farms and vertical farming, visit their website here.