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Vertical Farming and Micro Greens: Fad or Future?

Why are vertical farming and microgreens all the rage?

You keep hearing about them but what is driving these frequent discussion pieces? Why are microgreens and vertical farming so en vogue? And what is the driving force behind their constant pairing?

As with most things, it starts further afield of the supply chain. In this case: at water. For better or more likely worse, water is on the path to becoming the gold rush of the 22nd century. And vertical farms use 95% less than traditional farms. PlantLab has some fantastic slides that show the difference between the various methods of farming.

vertical farming production facts at a glance

open field farming production at a glance

greenhouse farming production at a glance

All slides courtesy of PlantLab

As you can see, it’s an astonishing difference. But it doesn’t tell the whole story. You’ll notice the reference to the sun being free energy. Vertical farming is incredibly energy intensive. Artificial lighting to achieve the full spectrum of the Sun’s light requires LED lighting in a controlled environment. And that required a ton of power; after all the sun is a giant fusion ball!

The biggest downside of vertical farms is the large amount of energy it takes to grow crops: between 30-176 kWh per kg more than greenhouses. With that difference in energy, you could run your washing machine approximately 132 times

Another important note is the lack of the traditional necessity of potting mix, top soil, coco, or other growing medium. Vertical farming requires no growing medium, which assuredly reduces the overall carbon footprint of vertical farming versus traditional farming. However, this is a moot point in cases of regenerative farming where soil health is prioritized.

The food production comparison really highlights the trade offs. The food miles transportation comparison is another astonishing difference. Obviously, most people would prefer their food was from 43 miles away as opposed to 1000 to 2000 miles away if for no other reason than a preference for fresher produce.

And that’s where microgreens come into the picture.

What are microgreens good for?

Microgreens are ridiculously nutritious. A co-study between the Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences and the Department of Chemistry of Sri Sathya Sai Institute studied ten culinary microgreens. The study showed that all microgreens are 2–3.5 times more nutrient dense than spinach mature leaves cultivated under similar conditions.

this shows a bunch of micro greens in a circle surrounding 11 nutrients with some arrows point to the NQS 11.2 of 10 microgreens ordered from most notorious to least. Spinach mature leaf is on the bottom of that scale.
The NQS of different micro greens

Micro greens are emerging functional foods in a 21st century increasingly clamoring for nutrient dense foods. They are excellent sources of ascorbic acid, Vitamin E and beta-carotene (pro-vitamin A), meeting 28–116 %, 28–332 %, and 24–72 % of reference daily intake of the respective vitamins.

And finally, they are delicious. The intense flavors that micro greens produce in food is a culinary delight.

two bars in a bar graph showing the aggregate total vertical farming investment of $4.4b in 2019 and a projected $17.7 b in 2025
Vertical Farming Investment in aggregate

When you combine both vertical farming and micro greens, one can see the obvious and incredible synergy these tools unite to grow tons of food in virtually limitless vertically stacked layers. The technical term for this grand unification is “controlled environment architecture.” And the market is primed to explode. Investment in vertical farming companies was $4.4 billion USD. In 2025, it’s expected to hit $15.7 billion USD. Large indoor farms growing microgreens with large crop yields growing food for an increasingly voracious food supply in indoor vertical farms boosts food security. And the market senses this and is reacting by tripling its five year investment.

This is why vertical farming is so prominent now.

Our next articles will be about the increasing costs of food and about the long term sustainability of vertical farming. As always, the single most important thing you can do, scientifically speaking, is plant your own victory garden. If you’d like to buy one of ours, click here.


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