Hi folks, and welcome to the last installment of our little 5-part mini-series about Vertical Farming and Controlled Environment Agriculture, “CEA.” Did you have an opportunity to read the previous parts? If not, don’t worry about it, they’re all linked below in case you need a quick refresher. You may recall we discussed the environmental risks involved with Vertical Farming and CEA way back in Vertical Farming 101. You may also remember a hedge clause stating that some of these risks can be mitigated. Today, we’ll take a quick look into the negatives and methods for managing or eliminating them from your CEA operation.
I don’t like to be negative all the time, so let’s recap some positives associated with Vertical Farming and CEA before we sink our teeth into the drawbacks.
Vertical Farming and CEA offer you a means to provide consumers with a higher-quality, healthier, and faster growing product year-round without having to rely on long-distance shipping to acquire it. This method of farming produces roughly seven times the yield of the typical greenhouse producing the same crops, further enhancing your revenue stream, while limiting certain resource input costs due to minimizing waste. The previous posts go into more detail if you’d like to revisit those.
Alright, as promised, let’s touch on the downsides you may encounter when you decide to incorporate Vertical Farming and CEA into your own farming style.
Increased up-front costs: We’ve addressed this numerous times over the series, but again, be forewarned that Vertical Farming and CEA techniques all incur higher initial costs than those of its traditional farming brethren. If you should choose to incorporate this method into your repertoire, anticipate spending at least three times what you otherwise would to implement the method. Major costs include buildings, lighting, buildout, and other required systems. Heavy reliance on modern technology, rather than human input can help minimize these costs over the long-run from labor to resource management.
High operating costs: You may be thinking to yourself, “didn’t you just say that it’s far more efficient to run a Vertical Farm with CEA—why are operating costs higher?”
That’s a fair question. I’ll answer it with one of my own—what happens when you leave the lights on in your house? Your electric bill goes up, right? We should expect the same phenomenon from Vertical Farms! Every plant in production must be lit, often through artificial means, with this method. LED lighting provides added efficiency over fluorescent, thus keeping costs down, but the running time of the lighting remains extreme. This equates to additional spending in the energy area, which would not be the case using traditional farming methods. This also doesn’t include the the electricity requirements for the main systems!
There may be a few of you who’ve hated getting this in your inbox every other day for weeks probably thinking, “how dumb to pay operating expenses for something free on a traditional farm! Why would I add this to my routine?” The increase can be mitigated to an extent through the implementation of renewable energy sources, such as solar panels on the building used for the Vertical farm, albeit adding to the substantial startup costs.
Moral of the story here is, if you’re growing crops that will command a higher price based on the methods used, it makes sense to use CEA and Vertical Farming. This is not a technique you’ll use growing corn, soybeans, or wheat.
Pollution: While mostly beneficial, Vertical Farming and CEA can still have a negative environmental impact due to the heightened power consumption. For example, does your Vertical farm use fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas, or oil for energy? Regardless of what fossil fuel generates the electricity, once it is burned, combustion gasses such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, and heavy metals are all left to leach into the atmosphere, worsening air pollution. If you weren’t paying attention, I encourage you to go back to the last section on drawbacks to this type of farming and read it again. We explicitly discussed the exorbitant energy usage that Vertical Farming and CEA requires. Now let’s discuss the environmental impacts of electricity’s delivery!
We now know a working Vertical Farm relies on quite a bit of electricity to operate, to supply that demand requires high-voltage circuit breakers, switches, and other related necessary equipment That doesn’t sound too bad, right? Well, all that equipment used in the distribution process to supply your Vertical Farm is insulated with sulfur hexafluoride, a potent greenhouse gas! If you disregard routine maintenance and it falls into disrepair, the aging and neglected equipment can easily allow that gas to leak into the atmosphere, eliminating the environmental benefits of this method.
Renewable sources of electricity, such as solar or wind, can negate many or all the environmental impact from both the generation and distribution. While implementing renewable energy sources into your Vertical Farm can lower your ongoing operating expenses, it does come with a hefty upfront cost. Ultimately it is up to you to determine the best way to power your Vertical Farm and control the environmental impact, allowing the benefits to be on full display from this method of farming. Whichever way you decide to go, remember nothing is all gumdrops and daisies, there are certain environmental risks and other drawbacks to consider prior to starting out.
Hey, you made it through! You have this in common with Steve Jobs, he was great at spotting the next big thing—and so are you! Now that you have a solid foundation with which to build your CEA empire upon, it’s crucial that you protect your investment properly! That’s where we come in. We offer you a comprehensive farm insurance plan so that your focus remains on growing your operation, rather than securing it. You ready to make your Vertical Farm a reality? Call for a chat at 440.835.4800 or Click or Tap Here to Get Started Today!
Not quite there yet? I get it, you’re not a bad person, but feedback is the breakfast of champions. Would you mind letting me know your thoughts below? Thanks, I really do appreciate it! Until next time my friends, happy farming!
Oh, I almost forgot—you can check out the rest of the Vertical Farming and Controlled Environment Agriculture series using the links below!