"We're growing in 16 days what otherwise takes 30 days in a field—using 95 percent less water, about 50 percent less fertilizers, zero pesticides, herbicides, fungicides,"
As a concept, vertical farming has been around for decades, and thinkers like Columbia professor Dickson Despommier are credited with advancing the concept. Until recently, however, it was never economically viable.
Even now, the concept has major drawbacks. It's capital-intensive to start a vertical farm, energy costs can run very high, and space constraints limit what can be grown.
Often, food grown in this way is a luxury. In China for instance, wealthy people are increasingly growing their own produce at small "dachas" outside of big cities because they don't trust where their store-bought food is coming from and whether it has been grown in a polluted environment.
Techie-farmers grow organic lettuce, micro greens and other produce in soil, on racks piled on top of each other covering less than one-fifth of an acre of floor space. To grow the same amount of produce, it would take 30 acres outdoors and 30 times more water.
The average tomato today travels 1,800 miles on a tractor-trailer from farm to table.
Someday, that tomato's trip may be a few blocks by taxi — or maybe even Uber. What's that worth?