Opportunity in the agriculture and growing industry has never been greater.
From increasing demand to expanding production, business is booming across the United States. In 2023 alone, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Statista estimate gross production value to reach nearly $300 billion ($298 billion), with an annual growth rate of three percent through 2028.
Along with opportunity is the integral role that growing, particularly vertical farming and hydroponics, play in sustainability and environmental impact. There are inherent risks and concerns associated with vertical farming, particularly regarding disposal and energy, which is why a trusted partner like GrowPro is critical to future success.
With such a key role in the future of the environment, horticulture and growth-focused businesses need to be protected by the right coverage.
The role of vertical farming in an ever-growing, evolving industry
Vertical farming is projected to be a $7 billion industry in 2023.
We know the advantages of vertical farming, primarily the 365-day growing season and a sizable reduction in land and water usage compared to traditional, horizontal farming. Perpetual harvests produce incrementally higher crop yields, which keeps businesses running at a consistent and more predictable pace – unaffected by weather patterns, changes in climate, etc.
The impact this industry has on the environment, and its ongoing efforts in sustainability, cannot be understated. It is, however, often overshadowed by a focus on yield, production, and profit. GrowPro and its partners share a commitment to highlighting and furthering efforts in sustainability and environmental impact; we understand the unique risks clients face and are here to help navigate them with confidence.
More food, more crops, more yield, less land – and, in a sustainable manner that safeguards future generations. There are certainly impediments going forward, but our team at GrowPro shares in that important mission with our clients.
The benefits of vertical farming and hydroponics
As mentioned above, we can start with the idea that less water and less land usage is a good thing. Carbon footprint reduction is a focus of several major agencies around the world, but it holds added significance when it comes to vertical farming efficiency and other eco-friendly practices.
When we consider that more of the American population is moving into urban areas, the conservation of land and energy becomes even more important to our mission of sustainability.
Other benefits of vertical farming
- Increased year-round production. By farming in a controlled environment, we’re able to grow crops that were once considered seasonal throughout the year.
- Lessened use of arable land. As our inventory of land shrinks, the rise of alternative (and environmentally-conscious) solutions couldn’t come at a better time. Vertical farms and hydroponic growth systems can be built virtually anywhere, even in urban areas that have been known as “food deserts” because they lack access to fresh produce.
- A focus on food safety. Vertical farming happens in a climate-controlled, closely-monitored environment, which means the conditions are favorable for growth and plants are less prone to contaminants.
Reducing electricity usage and fossil fuels are major components of the vertical farming and hydroponics industries’ sustainability mission.
While indoor farming is part of the solution, it’s not the whole solution. It’s incumbent upon professionals and subject matter experts within the industry to raise awareness and address concerns.
Vertical farming works to advance sustainability and environmental awareness in the United States
It’s cliche, but true: we only get one planet. And as our food supply becomes more of an immediate issue, conservation is equally important as production.
Earth.org estimates we’re losing 10 million hectares of forest every year, generating 4.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually. In short, well, that’s not good. Vertical farming and hydroponic growing can help us push back against environmental wear in several ways.
As mentioned above, deforestation is actively harming our planet and its environment. Paper production, crops, and livestock are responsible for a process that accounts for nearly five percent of all human emissions every year. Vertical farming reduces deforestation by growing in a sustainable manner with a smaller footprint, eliminating the need to wipe out trees and forest. There’s good news, though: more than 100 countries recently signed a pledge to end deforestation by 2030.
Stopping water pollution
In the simplest of terms, water usage in vertical farming is cyclical. Freshwater is brought into the system, used to grow the plants, then purified and recycled before being used again. Because water usage is contained in vertical farming, there’s virtually no risk of pollution or contamination of water that’s deposited in rivers or lakes.
Recycling and reusing freshwater
Vertical farming is a significant eco-friendly practice and its sustainable impact can last generations. According to UNESCO and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), agriculture is responsible for 70 percent of global freshwater usage.
At the same time, food production rates have nearly doubled in the last 30 years. You can imagine how this is a volatile situation; vertical farming uses water-saving technologies to recycle and reuse freshwater throughout farming systems. Water is used for growing, then purified and reused in subsequent growing cycles.
Reducing fossil fuels emissions
Environmental impact and sustainability can be achieved when we commit to reducing fossil fuels, particularly in the farming industry. With vertical farms and hydroponic systems, the use of cumbersome and diesel-burning equipment is eliminated – along with the need for gas-powered heating systems.
Using LED lighting is a more sustainable and energy-efficient way to provide heat and lighting opposed to traditional farming methods.
How vertical farms are working to reduce their environmental impact
One of the pressing problems to solve, when it comes to vertical farming, is energy consumption and efficiency.
The world’s population is growing, and by 2050, it’s within the realm of possibility (if not trending toward “likely”) that current farming practices won’t be able to meet food demand in the future. How can we meet the moment and produce food at a rate consistent with need, but also do so sustainably while reducing our impact on the environment?
The benefits of vertical farming and hydroponics, outlined throughout this piece, can help us get on a road to sustainability and more sensible electricity usage. That being said, vertical and indoor farming isn’t perfect; those in the industry are actively seeking methods to address two specific issues.
Concerns about waste disposal
We can tackle several environmental problems with vertical farming, including those we’ve discussed in this piece (deforestation, water usage, pollution). Waste disposal is an obstacle and in some cases, vertical farms are experiencing excess waste at the time of harvest. Compliance with waste regulations is an ongoing concern within the vertical farming industry, as it can be one of several green initiatives that create impact into the future.
As we stand today, there’s a risk of muting our environmental impact through vertical farming because of waste and emissions from growing substrates. Throughout the industry, there’s optimism about solutions (currently in development) on the horizon.
Concerns about energy consumption
It’s no secret that LED lighting consumes a lot of energy.
However, it’s also true that LED lighting produced in 2023 (and technology still being developed) will be more energy-efficient. An alternate method under consideration, which so far has produced mixed results, is improving solar panel technology to channel power into a variety of areas.
Let’s talk about GrowPro
GrowPro is as simple as insurance gets: we offer specialized insurance coverage for hydroponic growers, hemp, greenhouses, vertical farmers and more. From risk control to claims management (and more in between), our team has the unique experience required to support businesses through challenging times.
With 30-plus years of industry experience, GrowPro horticultural insurance program offers customized risk control, more pricing flexibility, enhanced stock coverages, and better claims service than our competitors. The agriculture and growing industries are rapidly changing and we have the expertise to help keep businesses protected from risk.