I hate to tell those folks in the hinterland that even farming will be rapidly changing in the not too distant future. I put out a post a few months ago about vertical farming but have been learning more since then. Vertical farming is the practice of cultivating crops in vertically stacked shelves and often in a controlled indoor environment. The pandemic is accelerating this new procedure even in the Midwest. On a road trip in 2019 I came across a vertical farm enterprise in northwestern Ohio. It was huge, probably 200-300 acres. I found them on the Internet, and they say they can deliver their veggies within five hours to 50 million people. How’s that for fresh? It was basically a huge greenhouse with plants growing in the air fertilized by a daily mist.
Why would we move to vertical farming?
There are several reasons.
I. The expense of transporting most of our fruits and vegetable thousands of mile in refrigerated trucks. To achieve that, the crop has to be picked before it has is ripe and at full flavor. Vertical farming can be accomplished in almost any environment so can be delivered to the local supermarkets often the same day it is picked.
II. Another reason is the sure to be explosive growth in the cost of fossil fuels. The economy of scale will not be there when electric vehicles become the norm as dictated by climate change.
III. Vertical farming uses up to 90% less water and doesn’t require pesticides or weed killers that contaminate most foods grown today.
IV. Vertical farming is done with local labor. That gives people in the Midwest a place for unskilled employment that robotics and artificial intelligence have replaced. It creates needed local jobs instead of having to depend on the annual migration of migrant workers to harvest crops.
Yes, I realize that corn is the major crop in the US. Around 100 million acres are grown every year. The majority of that is used as a feed grain for meat production. It is well known that meat consumption is on a down-hill trend and will likely be a much smaller volume of total food consumption in near future generations.
With locally sourced fruit and vegetable production from vertical farming, it is likely that we will actually have millions of acres of land reverting to another use. What that use is, I haven’t the slightest idea.
As with most things these days, the pandemic is accelerating the path of this emerging innovation. The COVID-19 outbreak has accelerated the demand for fresh and locally grown produce. Local food production allows produce to be shipped to grocery stores, restaurants, and other dining services in a matter of hours and that is a win-win all the way around. Fresher products and locally sources, is that what everyone wants?