The emerging concept of "vertical agriculture" seems rather new to many people, but in the field of agricultural science and technology, "vertical agriculture" has been one of the investment projects favored by many developed countries and enterprises. At the beginning of this year, the large-scale retail company Walmart decided to participate in the 400 million financing plan of American indoor vertical agricultural technology company Plenty and supply fresh agricultural products produced by Plenty in all Walmart supermarkets in California. Vertical agriculture has become a new hit in the United States for some time, but some experts believe that the technology used in vertical agriculture is expensive and immature. If it is not well developed, the industry may fall over a night.
Walmart cooperates with plenty
Charles Redfield, Walmart's US chief marketing officer, talked about the cooperation between the two companies: "Walmart has always been committed to finding and investing in innovative food solutions to bring our customers the freshest and best quality food at the most favorable prices. Plenty is recognized as a new agricultural leader in the industry. It provides consumers with agricultural products without pesticides and with the best taste all the time. Our partnership not only accelerates the process of agricultural innovation, but also helps realize our commitment to sustainable development by providing a new and fresh product beneficial to mankind and the earth. "
Arama Kukutai, CEO of Plenty, said of the new technology adopted by plenty: "Plenty's unique farming system enables annual indoor planting plans. Our farms can be built anywhere, and we can provide consumers with fresh fruits and green vegetables anytime, anywhere. As a market leader in the retail industry, Walmart is undoubtedly an ideal partner. We can constantly innovate our products based on customer feedback. This represents a change in the rules of the game in the field of agricultural science and technology. "
According to Reuters, Plenty's agricultural technology can provide pesticide free agricultural products that taste like freshly picked from the garden all year round. Unlike greenhouses or other indoor farms, the company's indoor farming architecture combines engineering, software and sustainable farming technology to grow a variety of crops at an unprecedented rate. The patented technology owned by Plenty has greatly improved the use of water and land in traditional agriculture. Plenty can build their farm closer to consumers. On the one hand, it can effectively reduce transportation costs and avoid food waste. On the other hand, food can remain fresh for a longer time in recyclable product packaging.
What is vertical farming?
Vertical agriculture refers to an agricultural method of producing food on a vertically inclined surface. This method does not grow crops on a single level such as greenhouses or land, but on a vertical stacking level or on other integrated structures (such as skyscrapers, shipping containers, second-hand warehouses).
Vertical farming adopts indoor growing and controlled environmental agriculture (CEA) technology to realize the artificial control of temperature, light, humidity and gas, making it possible to produce crops or other products indoors. In many ways, vertical farming is similar to a greenhouse, using the perfect combination of natural and artificial light to maintain the perfect light level in the production room. Vertical farming also uses growth media such as aeroponic or hydroponic growing to replace soil. For example, peat moss or coconut shell are very common in vertical agriculture.
By 2050, the world's population is expected to grow to 9.7 billion, while the arable land available to mankind has decreased by a third in the past 40 years. In the limited cultivated land, vertical farming is a supplement to the traditional agricultural practice. Its main goal is to maximize crop yield in a limited space and alleviate the challenges faced by the current crop system in a sustainable way.
Vertical farming also faces obstacles
The goal of vertical farming is to prepare for the future and increase the annual crop production, but it also means that vertical agriculture needs strong enough technology support to achieve its goal. The entire vertical agriculture relies heavily on technologies for lighting, maintaining temperature and humidity. For vertical farming, any form of error is not allowed. If the power is cut off for one day, the price is even more expensive. Many experts believe that the technology needed for vertical agriculture is still unstable and cannot be applied to the production process on a large scale.
Vertical agriculture has developed rapidly in the United States, with an annual growth rate of more than 24% from 2018 to 2024. According to the data, consumers can now find agricultural products grown in vertical farming in more than 20 supermarket chains. Despite the growing demand, the construction cost of farms is still unacceptable, and the ability to build large farms and achieve the expected unit economic benefits is still immature. Therefore, people will naturally doubt the value of vertical agriculture. Many experts believe that the leverage ratio of the industry is still very high, which has raised concerns about its viability. According to the report on AFN, in order to obtain capital, vertical farming technology companies used TikTok and other platforms to exaggerate the benefits brought by vertical farming, and even bragged about major expansion plans that have never been realized around the world. In fact, among these companies, many lack agricultural experience. In addition, the time they planned to achieve these exaggerated production goals has far exceeded the scope allowed by the venture capital schedule. Once the industry can't reach this bottom line, all the possible goals will fail.