As for the farms being a panacea to solve world hunger, Rick Sachleben, PhD, a chemist and member of the ACS panel of experts, says he expects they’ll make an incremental contribution. “They make sense to set up in areas where the land has more value, like cities, because they have a small footprint and there will be savings on water and the fossil fuel costs of transporting the plants,” he says.
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Types of Vertical Farms
There are three main types of vertical farms, all soil-free. First, hydroponic farms are the predominant growing system in vertical farms, according to ATTRA, a sustainable agriculture program run by the National Center for Appropriate Technology in Butte, Mont. Hydroponics involves growing plants in nutrient solutions in water. Second, aeroponic farms, originally developed by NASA, nourish plants by spraying solutions onto their suspended roots. ATTRA says they use 90 percent less water than hydroponic systems. AeroFarms is the largest aeroponic farmer in the U.S. Finally, aquaponics combines plants and fish in the same ecosystem in which the fish provide the nutrients for the plants, which filter and purify the wastewater from the fish and return it to the fish ponds.