Research

Climate change is causing and will continue to cause extreme and unpredictable weather events that will threaten the agricultural industry and therefore the global food supply. Conventional agricultural practices are at the will of the climate, and do not provide any resilience to environmental changes. For the agricultural industry to become sustainable in the face of climate change, it will need to utilize practices that aid in climate resilience. An alternative practice, vertical farming, has risen from academia to an upcoming industry within the past three decades, and provides a possible solution to the issue of weather-dependent crops. Vertical farming is an indoor practice that relies on technology to supplement natural lighting, soil, nutrients, and other climate conditions like humidity and wind. The crops are grown in vertically stacked shelves and regulated by workers or machinery constantly. This practice has been achieved on large scales like factories but can also be utilized as micro-farms in restaurants, schools, and even shipping containers. AeroFarms is known as the company with the largest vertical farm factory in the world and was utilized as a case study for this paper. The EPA’s three pillars of sustainability provided the framework around the analysis of AeroFarms. The analysis found that vertical farming is not sustainable with current technologies due to its heavy reliance on carbon-based energy sources and its lack of accessibility to lower income farmers. However, alternative practices such as conservation and regenerative agriculture are more affordable for lower income farmers and foster resilience in the surrounding environment. Further research could indicate how these practices can be incorporated into the agricultural industry, and also how effective each practice is when compared to others.