Editor’s Note: This is the first in a three-part series that looks at the vertical farming industry and the role engineers can play in , developing the technologies to make it more scalable, inspired by the element14 Community’s new Vertical Farming Design Challenge . The earth’s population is expected to reach nearly 10 billion people by the year 2050 and roughly 80 percent of that population will live in urban centers. This influx of urban development is putting increased pressure on the agricultural industry to develop new ways to feed to the world. Traditional farming practices are not sustainable for the long term. Historically, some 15 percent of the earth’s usable farm land has been wasted by poor management practices, and the rise of new cities will require us to rethink where and how we grow our food. Shifts in population, infrastructure and the environment have all given rise to vertical farming, a fast-growing subsect of urban agriculture aimed at harvesting crops on multiple levels and in unused industrial spaces. Vertical farms have popped up all over the world – from the Netherlands to New Jersey – and are changing the way we use technology to farm more efficiently and effectively. For all of the progress vertical farms have made in recent years, several major challenges still remain. The key to overcoming those obstacles lies with the engineers who can design new solutions that create efficiencies, reduce cost and maximize food production. Lighting Lighting plays a critical role in growing and harvesting crops in urban environments where natural sunlight isn’t steadily available. But from an economics perspective alone, lighting is also one of the biggest limiting factors to the widespread adoption of vertical farms. Most facilities are located in one of two parts of the world: privately-owned vertical farms […]
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