Vertical farms use high tech lighting and climate controlled buildings to grow crops like leafy greens or herbs indoors while using less water and soil.
Because it’s a closed growing system, with controlled evaporation from plants, this farms use 95% less water than traditional farms.
At the same time, most vertical farms don’t need soil because they use aeroponics or hydroponic systems – these dispense nutrients needed for plants to grow via mist or water.
The Netherlands is building its first large-scale commercial vertical indoor farm. In the US, Chicago is home to several vertical farms, while New Jersey is home to AeroFarms, the world’s largest vertical farm.
Africa faces similar trends that demand it considers vertical farms. Despite sharing trends that have fuelled the vertical farming movement, Africa is yet to see a boom in the industry.
It’s important to establish what the barriers to entry are, and what African entrepreneurs need to do to ensure more vertical farms emerge.
A complete modern vertical farm capable of growing roughly 1 million kilos of produce a year can cost up to $80 to $100 million.
Many African cities frequently experience power cuts and this could prove to be a big challenge for innovators wanting to venture in vertical farming business.
Faced with these challenges, entrepreneurs thinking of venturing into vertical farming in Africa need to put in more thought, creativity and innovation in their design and building methods.
In Uganda faced with lack of financial resources to build a modern vertical farm and limited access to land and water, urban farmers are venturing into vertically stacked wooden crates units. These stacked simple vertical gardens consume less water and allow urban farmers to grow vegetables such as kale to supply urban markets.
In Kenya, sack gardens represent a local and practical form of a vertical farm.
Ukulima Tech builds modern vertical farms for clients in Nairobi. At the moment it’s created four prototypes of vertical farms; tower garden, hanging gardens, A-Frame gardens and multifarious gardens.
Feeding Africa’s rapidly growing urban population will continue to be a daunting challenge, but vertical farming – and its variations – is one of the most innovative approaches that can be tapped into as part of an effort to grow fresh, healthy, nutritious and pesticide-free food for consumers.