Vertical farming is a method of 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.
Vertical farming has the potential to be one of the solutions to food insecurity in parts of the world where crop production is limited by climate change or other environmental factors. Vertical farming reduces water and land use, reduces nutrient emissions, and could eliminate the need for pesticides. It also allows more food to be grown locally and with higher yields.
But some critics of vertically-grown veggies say they look pale, artificial, and taste bland. In the first study of its kind, a research team led by scientists from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark sought to investigate whether these consumer prejudices hold true.
The research team asked 190 participants to blind taste test arugula, baby spinach, pea shoots, basil, and parsley grown in vertical farming and compare the taste and appearance to those same leafy greens grown organically in soil.
Overall, the organic greens grown traditionally narrowly beat out the vertically-grown ones in the study, but it was very close. For example, when asked to rate arugula on a scale of 1-9 with 9 being best, the participants gave both types a 6.6. There was no clear winner between basil, baby spinach, and pea shoots. The only clear winner was organically-grown parsley.
The study debunks some myths about vertically-grown food and should help pave the way for more widespread adoption of this efficient method to grow tasty and nutritious food.
Photo, posted May 11, 2009, courtesy of Cliff Johnson via Flickr.