Vertical farming is a method for producing crops in vertically stacked layers or surfaces typically in a skyscraper, used warehouse, or shipping container. Modern vertical farming uses indoor farming techniques and controlled-environment agriculture technology.
Metropolis Farms, operating out of a warehouse in South Philadelphia, is not only Philadelphia’s first indoor vertical farm and the first vegan-certified farm in the nation, it will also be the world’s first to go completely solar. The farm has installed a 100,000 square-foot rooftop array of over 2,000 solar panels that generate more than half a megawatt of energy to entirely power the farm, located on the floor underneath.
The fourth floor of the building will grow the equivalent of 660 outdoor acres’ worth of crops annually after planting starts this November. The farm will grow fresh tomatoes, strawberries, lettuce, herbs, broccoli, and other crops for local Philadelphians.
Compared to traditional farming, indoor vertical farms claim considerable savings in water because it is recirculated by pumps, greatly reduced pesticide use, reduced need for space, and reductions in transportation miles by locating farms near consumers. In addition, food can be grown year-round thanks to artificial lighting.
Critics of vertical farming claim that the use of growth lights and water pumps make the method too energy intensive and prohibitively expensive to operate. But with the solar installation, Metropolis Farms will produce its own energy for operations.
Vertical farming is a developing technology. Modern lighting technology like LEDs and various other strategies are reducing the amount of energy the farms use. There will likely be many more indoor farms in the future.
Photo courtesy of Metropolis Farms.