On Sunday July 16, the first full day of Cultivate'17, leading vertical farming expert and consultant Henry Gordon-Smith presented for one hour about vertical farming, trends in the industry and what makes businesses fail or succeed in the space. Here are three things we learned from his presentation.
1. Younger citizens are heavily involved in vertical farming's growth.
According to Gordon-Smith, the average age of the U.S. farmer is 58. It is becoming increasingly common, he says, for younger people to not take over their parents' farms and seek out less demanding jobs in more urban areas. As a result — in addition to a nationwide push for local food — young people are making the push for sustainable, vertical farming in metropolises across the United States.
2. Vertical farming is still in its infancy.
At the beginning of his presentation, Gordon-Smith said that seven years ago when he started seeking out information on vertical farming, there were no vertical farms in North America. And, he says, despite a significant amount of funding being put into the industry, it still has a long ways to go before becoming widely used and a part of every urban city in the U.S., if not globally.
Gordon-Smith also noted that Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), a federal agency whose goal is to use technology to improve national security, built a commercial-sized vertical farm to grow tobacco and make vaccines for the military.
3. Cities are prioritizing urban agriculture.
Part of Gordon-Smith's current work to help cities like Los Angeles, New York and Baltimore — as well as companies like Amazon — to add vertical farming to their environment. He says cities are starting to view the sustainable, space-saving production methods of vertical farming to create "green class" jobs and increase food supply in dense urban areas. One success story: Atlanta, which has member's of the mayor's team focused solely on implementing urban agriculture and hosts an event each year called Aglanta that discusses urban food production and its role in shaping the city's future.
Photo courtesy of Agritecture