How vertical farming might transform cities
When you consider the fact that the Earth surface does not grow in tandem with the growth in the world’s population, it becomes apparent this is not sustainable. As such, it is predicted that “by 2050 there will be billions of more hungry people.”
In the light of the above, various approaches have been adopted to drastically reduce the likelihood of such a catastrophe from coming into being. And one significant idea is that of Dickson Despommier – the concept of Vertical Farming.
Traditional farming causes huge strains on the earths resources and cause unimaginable pollution. But Dickson is of the opinion that Vertical Farming, when encouraged, can help society as a whole leverage on existing structures to reduce hunger by changing how we farm.
Vertical farming moves the plants from the field to the laboratory and uses one of many different methods – hydroponics, aquaponics and aeroponics – inside using lights to provide energy. Essentially by moving the farm indoors and stacking plants layer upon layer we are able to grow more food, produce faster turn around times and increase the yield. This is due to the lack of elements that affect plants when growing out doors – such as rain, wind and pests.
Vertical farms are more like a scientists laboratory than a conventional farm, and the results have been outstanding. Vertical farming could revolutionise how our cities operate, by bringing the food source closer to the consumer and thus decreasing costs plus our environmental footprint, as well as freeing up farmland, making it available for residential development.
So, how will this influence the real estate industry?
Traditional Green Belt Disappearing
The majority of cities around the world (at least in the western hemisphere) are designed in the same manner. A CBD, the suburbs, lifestyle properties and then the green belt. The local councils job is to control the spread of the city from encroaching onto the green belt thus destroying the food source for that city. But vertical farming may turn this upside down.
The green belt could disappear completely as it is no longer needed as food can be grown better and closer to the consumer right in the central city areas (most likely the industrial centres). What will this mean for property investors? – I do not know, but it could open up development opportunities in areas that have previously been off limits.
Property Conversion from Commercial to Vertical Farms
Changes are also going to be seen massively with the development of vertical farming where many large commercial buildings will be converted to vertical farms. I would expect this to be primarily in industrial areas where food production already occurs. This opens up opportunities for commercial property investors, with retail declining due to the internet, and 3D printing expecting to kill many manufacturing businesses – vertical farming may add some much welcome relief.
Supermarkets growing their own food
One concept which has been gaining traction is the idea of installing vertical farms into supermarkets thereby providing fresher food with no transport footprint. In fact some companies are already experimenting with this concept. If successful, we could end up seeing multi-storey supermarkets with the retail shopping experience on the ground floor and the vertical farms on the stories above.
We are yet to see the full scope of what vertical farming will do to the real estate industry and whilst I believe it won’t play a major part in the disruption, there are definitely some areas for real estate investors to niche in and profit from an emerging trend.