Vertical farming

Vertical farming

Abstract

This report is a culmination of various steps on qualitative research on vertical farming. The paper covers the diffusion of innovation and its adoption in different parts of the globe. Also, it explores the hypothesis of what adjustments could be made to the change to make it more sustainable in the long run. Vertical farming traces its origins to the 20th century when farmers began placing boxes with glass roofs over their crops to provide optimum conditions for growth. These boxes evolved into greenhouses, which were nevertheless affected by adverse outdoor conditions. Scientists discovered a way of growing plants without the soil in the 1970s, which was followed by optimization of lighting systems. With a focus on adjusting the environment to cater for the needs of the plants, innovations in vertical farming have continually resulted in high yields since then.

Research Plan

Vertical farming is highly regarded in modern agriculture as the ultimate solution to seasonal farming, urban agricultural practise, and optimal plant production. Various innovations in the field have continued to spark interest among food security enthusiasts. It is this hype, the excitement, and optimism which has accompanied vertical farming that inspired my interest in the research topic. High costs associated with the agricultural production, however, threaten to outweigh the benefits advertised with much vigour by its proponents. As such, my research hypothesis will focus on investigating possible innovations which could potentially reduce production costs. To unearth these cost-cutting novelties, the plan is to delve into qualitative research of the available content on the topic in the bid to gain insights on the trends in the agricultural field.

To identify sustainable methods of vertical farming, the methods I incorporated in the research process include observation, conducting case studies, and taking notes from content analysis.The plan I adopted for the research process was to rely on credible sources on the internet to observe the various forms of vertical farming techniques used in the world today. Next, I selected one aspect of the field and conducted a case study. Finally, I took notes of the insights I gained from analyzing available content on the subject and compiled a report. Observation consumed about 48 hours, 72 hours were spent on a case study, and 24 hours on taking notes and compiling the report based on my findings. The objective of my research topic was to investigate the underlying motivations behind the spread of ideas on vertical farming within the United States and beyond. Overall, adopting a qualitative research approach was critical towards understanding market trends regarding the research topic.

Research Insights

Following the steps involved in the research process was vital towards gaining insights on the field of vertical farming. From observation of the various techniques used in the method of agricultural production, I figured that the trick to ensuring an economically viable and sustainable vertical farming project is to maximize production so as to cover the substantial overhead costs. For example, the use of LED lighting systems in vertical farms allows all-year production, increases the yield of harvests, and facilitates high production of crops. The benefits, therefore, outweigh high costs of installation and maintenance of the lighting technology. Birkby reckons that vertical farming could be made sustainable by offering incentives to farmers who elect to use energy-efficient LED lights in place of fluorescent lights (6). Rogers, however, reckons that although incentives increase the quantity of adopters of an innovation, the quality of such innovation decisions may be considered low, hence limiting the intended consequences of adoption (237). The use of highly efficient LED devices will reduce the energy costs associated with the production process; therefore concerns on diluting the quality of innovations do not apply in this case. The ability of vertical farming to offer high yields could be used to attract investors to with a view of instituting crowdfunding to boost the capital required for sustainable production.

Modern innovations in the field of vertical farming have facilitated a more economical production of plant food compared to traditional agriculture. A case study on AeroFarms, an aeroponics company, based in the United States, revealed that the amount of water required for production is significantly lower than the quantity consumed using soil-based techniques.  Conversely, I discovered that the yields were higher and that the company was dependent on reusable sheets of fabric for sowing, germination, and growth of plants (Rothman). Therefore, while the investment capital involved in vertical farming is considerably high, the returns on investment are justifiable, and the focus on protecting the environment makes the venture sustainable and economical.

The sustainability of vertical farming is further boosted by its ability to accommodate a wide range of crops. The case study on the AeroFarms plant in Newark venture revealed that the project efficiently handles hundreds of plant varieties(Rothman). The diversity in plant food translates to a healthier diet for the consumers. If the marketing of the product is done in an aggressive fashion, the revenues streams realised would significantly offset the high costs of associated with the production process and purchase of necessary equipment for vertical farming. The insights gained in this particular case study highlighted the ways which aeroponics can use its propensity for high yields and a variety of products to meet the needs of the market. In the long run, the economies of scale realised by pooling of customers eventually makes the venture economically viable.

Outside the United States,innovations concerning vertical farms have rapidly gained popularity. The stakeholders in the agriculture industry view production under controlled environment as the solution to the limitations due to insufficient arable land. Accordingly, the United Arab Emirates has invested in vertical farms in Dubai in the bid to reduce the country’s overreliance on imported plant food (Nasowitz). By use of incentives, the government of UAE hopes to influence the adoption of vertical farming techniques. The provision of enticements is one of the ways a higher authority, say a government, can encourage a higher rate of adoption of a specific innovation (Rogers 239). The growing interest by major shareholders can only be positive in the search for sustainable solutions to vertical farming since research into the production methods will increase. As innovation continues to diffuse in various parts of the world, different companies will discover creative ways of efficient production in an optimal environment and pass on the knowledge to their peers. As such, the industry will grow and new techniques to boost sustainability discovered.

Research Reflection

The research process was very informative, interactive and engaging. I discovered facts about vertical farming beyond what is propagated in the media. Aeroponics, in particular, is a revolutionary innovation in the field given its ability to offer a wide variety of healthy products to various kinds of customers. Also, contrary to the popular notion that vertical farming is expensive and uneconomic for mass production, the case study on AeroFarms proved the contrary as the firm revealed a consistent stream of revenues from the sale of its products to the American market. Overall, the case study was the most exciting part of the research process as it allowed me to interact with the projects on the ground by relying on authoritative articles on the internet. Also, content analysis primarily on the sustainable methods of vertical farms production was eye-opening and generally went on well. The observation technique could have gone better, however, given that I was only able to discover one single method of reducing the costs associated with vertical farming. If I were to do the exercise again, I would introduce a broader scope to my observation step.

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