Shining light on vertical farming
Food security has become one of the major concerns in recent times. The prolonged Covid-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war have worsened the supply chain of food stuffs. Import-dependent countries having scarcity of agricultural lands are now looking for technology-based farming.
Densely-populated countries are adopting new technologies to maximise organic production of foods and vegetables using minimum land. The concept 'Circular economy' is gaining popularity in agricultural production. The future of farming is a circular cycle, a transformation of traditional farming processes.
A recent report of Grand View Research, published in February 2022, has stated that the global vertical farming market is expected to exceed $33.02 billion, with a colossal CAGR of 25.5 per cent from 2022 to 2030.
Vertical farming is a way of growing plants by stacking them vertically on shelves or long pillars in completely enclosed conditions.
Singapore has also started technology-based vertical farming to reduce import dependence. My recent visit to a vertical farming site, V-tech Agriplus, in Singapore in the last week of July, 2022 was a new experience, indeed.
Three young farmers have dedicated themselves to ensure future food security of Singaporeans using modern technologies.
V-plus Agitech has its own farm to grow vegetables using Aquaponics technology. However, it is mainly providing consultations to schools and urban areas looking to adopt the vertical farming module.
The V-plus Agritech is contributing to a positive impact on circular economy by providing farming solutions for aspiring farm owners, existing farmers and communities.
The Internet of Things (IoT) farm of the young farmers uses sensors to monitor water pH, CO2, humidity and temperature.
The farmers have started technology-based farming rather than traditional one. None of them was a farmer earlier or born in a farmer family.
One of the young farmers is an ex-soldier while other two farmers were furniture businessmen and professor. Interestingly, I found one Bangladeshi worker too assisting in the farm.
The Aquaponics farming method helps them earn revenue both from telapia fish and organic vegetables.
Aquaculture means farming fish in water while hydroponics refers to farming plants in water instead of soil.
The aquaponics system is combination of aquaculture and hydroponics. This system ensures higher yields compared to that of traditional farming.
Water consumption in the aquapoincs system is 90 per cent less than that of the traditional farming. Water is constantly being re-circulated within the system and not dried out due to evaporation or runoff.
As new smart farm technologies, vertical farming has achieved massive successes, especially in ensuring stability and reliability in crop production. Such farming needs less natural elements like water, agrochemicals, and agricultural labour.
V-plus Agritech Pte Ltd was founded in Singapore in 2021 to empower individuals and communities to set up vertical farms using the aquaponics farming method. It is licensed by the Singapore Food Agency.
James Yin, Founding Member, Greenie Farmer, Nelson Wei Tan, Co-Founder, Techie Farmer, William Foo, Co-Founder, Happy Farmer, are the young farmers who have founded their vertical farms.
Nelson Wei Tan said vertical farming needed less water, only 10 per cent than that of normal farming, and no pesticides.
The farmers do not need to use pesticides as the indoor is clean and free from bugs. The farmers requested us to rub our shoes on the floor mats before entering the farm to keep plants free of bugs. As plants are grown in such clean conditions, we just pulled off leafy vegetables and eat those without washing.
"We can produce seven times more vegetables than that of regular farming and also earn revenue from tilapia fish too," he said.
There were around 1200 tilapia fishes in the tank. They will conduct an experiment to cultivate high value fish having omega-3. It is conducting research with National University of Singapore on microbes for nutrient conversion.
According to a report of Food and Agriculture Organisation, the world is moving backwards in its efforts to end hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition in all its forms.
Attaining the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 target by 2030 would be difficult, unless agrifood systems are transformed, made more resilient and it is ensured that lower cost nutritious foods and affordable healthy diets are supplied for all, sustainably and inclusively, the FAO has said.
The SDG 2 seeks sustainable solutions to end hunger in all its forms by 2030 and to achieve food security.