Warehouses, disused shipping containers, abandoned car parks and even a Second World War tunnel beneath London are just some of the city sites now home to vertical farms, a green revolution that may be the answer to global food shortages.
Considered the new frontier of agriculture, vertical farming can establish high-value crop production in the most unlikely locations, growing all manner of fresh produce, from kale and lettuce to herbs using mineral nutrients instead of soil.
Sustainable City in Dubai is the latest to join the urban farming revolution with Beijing-based Alesca Life Technologies setting up a hydroponic shipping container farm in the community that uses advanced technology to grow microgreens, such as "Internet-of-Things” sensor boxes, and a smartphone app that enables most farming aspects to be monitored and operated remotely.
According to the agriculture startup founder and CEO, Stuart Odea, a recipient of the World Economic Forum’s Tech Pioneers award, indoor farming can “significantly reduce water usage, fertiliser usage and completely removes the requirement for pesticide use”.
It also helps to preserve the nutrient content – which can be depleted by as much as half by the time the product reaches the market – and promote food security and diversity.