“Vertical farming” seems to be a new concept in Agriculture. The term “vertical farming” was first employed by Gilbert Ellis Bailey in his book Vertical Farming in 1915. He described the term as farming with a special interest in soil origin, its nutrient content, the view of plant life as “vertical” life forms specifically relating to their underground root structures.

In recent times globally, vertical farming refers to the the practice of plant cultivation in vertically arranged layers in a multistory skyscraper, warehouse or shipping container. Vertical farming is a natural extension of urban agriculture aiming for sustainable agriculture within urban areas and arenas using mine shafts, stackable shipping containers and multi-used skyscrapers.

All vertical farming is aiming at is growing more for less; less soil, less water, less space, fewer farm inputs, fewer worries about unfavorable weather conditions and climate change, fewer pest issues and less labor, leading to sustainable agriculture. Instead of having to wait for farms in the rural areas, lose the quality and quantity of produce to poor storage and long distances, vertical farming encourages the building of farms in cities all over the world so that people have access to sufficient, fresh, healthy and highly nutritious foods.

Vertical farming is an escape route to year-round crop production while still being eco-friendly (greenhouse gases, water pollution are eliminated). It brings fresh food closer to the tables of consumers in the cities and towns in time at reduced transport costs and prevents waste that characterizes traditional farming. More so, crops planted and produced are protected from extreme weather conditions and have improved yield in quantity and quality.

How Applicable and Adaptable can it be in Nigeria?

Globally, agriculture accounts for 70% of all water withdrawal and 70% of freshwater contamination and in the past four (4) decades, one-third of the world’s arable agriculture has been degraded due to pollution and erosion and these are pointers that we need to find better ways to feed our planet.

According to Fresh Direct Nigeria, more than 170 million people need to be fed in Nigeria. To satisfy this demand, Nigeria imports over US$3.5 billion in food products annually while exporting only US$500 million. With the encroachment of the Sahel in Northern Nigeria, desertification is a major problem faced and this has reduced agricultural activities and contributions to sustainable food supply and security. Coming to the South-South region, where oil and its derivatives have grossly polluted the land, water and atmospheric resources needed for agriculture, there’s hardly any more option let for us than vertical farming.

With technologies like LED lights, drip irrigation, cold storage, and specific transportation processes, vertical farming can be done. There are waste shipping containers left by the side of the roads, ports, etc. and instead of constituting an environmental nuisance, they can be employed and used to feed millions as well as generate income combining hydroponics as well as vertical farming techniques.

With few individuals and corporations in Nigeria already tapping into this agricultural innovation, technical know-how and capital provided by the government and bodies concerned, would invariably inculcate vertical farming into Nigeria’s agricultural sector.

However, due to poor infrastructural facilities (electricity, water), poor technical know-how, fuel scarcity to mention but a few which characterizes Nigeria’s system, this sustainable urban farming is bound to experience a lot of setbacks.