Big companies developing vertical farming technology means it’s catching on.
“The ability of farmers to manage risks in long-term, multi-generational contexts, has helped make U.S. agriculture extraordinarily resilient,” says Gregory Page, Executive Chairman of Cargill Inc., one of the world’s largest food companies. “That resilience is also built on innovation and on investments made decades ago.”
Page’s comments come in light of the new report Risky Business Report: The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States.
Climate change and its environmental impacts are poised to fundamentally change agriculture as it is in America. Just one example; the Great Plains and Midwest risk up to a 70% loss in annual crop yields (corn, soy, cotton, and wheat) due to rising temperatures according to the report.
Of course, that loss only occurs absent any agricultural adaptation or innovation.
While innovation could come from anywhere, more and more big companies are recognizing vertical farming as a potential next step in the evolution of the world’s food supply.
Last week, we saw Panasonic make its first steps, but huge multinationals like Phillips, Sony, and GE are testing the potential of controlled environment agriculture as well. It is only natural that those controlled environments adapt for efficiency. That adaptation is vertical.
So what are we trying to say?
There are a number of profit-driven pressures converging to push big companies into vertical farming. Whether this comes from an overdue consensus in the business world on global warming (Risky Business board includes businessmen like Michael Bloomberg, Gregory Page, and Tom Steyer) or recognizing isolated urban markets with a demand for local produce as is the case with Panasonic, businesses realize there is enough money in this to warrant further research and experimentation.
As innovative and sustainable agriculture becomes a focal point for combating climate change (over 44% of greenhouse gas emissions come from agricultural production, a number that has been steadily climbing), more and more companies with the resources to experiment will take note of vertical farming as one possible solution.
This is important because the number one critique of vertical farming has always been its expense, and the majority of that is front-loaded. This means that before vertical farms can be profitable, a huge initial investment has to be made. Look at last week’s data on Sky Greens; $28 million dollars to build 2000 3-story towers.
That’s a lot of money.
And what better place for that money to come from than companies already raking it in?