Examples of top automated vertical farms in the world [Updated]

vertical farming

As the global population continues to grow and arable land rapidly declines, the way we produce food urgently needs to change. According to estimates from the United Nations, the global population will reach 9.7 billion by 2050. This growth will be concentrated in the poorest countries, where living standards are set to rise rapidly, increasing demand for resource-intensive meat and dairy products. This scenario leads to the almost ubiquitous assertion that we must double world food production by 2050. In this context, building-based urban agriculture, or vertical farming, is gaining popularity in cities.

Vertical farming is designed to proactively ensure the sustainability of our cities by addressing food safety for the ever-growing urban population. There are currently three types of vertical farming. The first type involves the construction of large structures, often fitted with artificial light and multiple layers of beds. The second type of vertical farming occurs on the roofs of old and new buildings, in commercial and residential buildings, and in restaurants and food shops. The third type of vertical farm is constructed in a multi-story building.

Advantages of Automated, High-Tech Vertical Farming

  • Controlled indoor environments are independent of outdoor weather conditions, ensuring consistent and reliable growth cycles to meet delivery schedules and supply contracts.
  • Overhead production costs are reduced by 30%.
  • Using high-efficiency LED lighting ensures minimal use of power.
  • Fully automated growing systems only require manual labor for planting, harvesting, and packaging on-site.
  • Vertical farms use about 10% of the water needed for traditional open-field farming.
  • Vertical farms use strict bio-security procedures to eliminate pests and diseases.
  • Travel times are dramatically reduced, lowering the cost of refrigeration, storage, and transport.
  • Vertical farms can supply a growing area nearly ten times that of traditional farms.
  • Vertical farms can provide more crop rotations per year than open-field farming.
  • It is possible to fully monitor and automate the vertical farm.
  • Temperature, CO2, and moisture levels are always optimized to ensure air quality.
  • All vertical farms use specially formulated, biologically active nutrients in all crop cycles to provide healthy plant growth with organic minerals and enzymes.
  • All water contaminants are removed before entering the vertical farm to ensure water quality.

Several cities have embarked on vertical farming projects. The following list includes some of these projects.

1. Nuvege, Kyoto, Japan

Nuvege is a frontrunner in automated vertical farming, operating out of Kyoto, Japan. Their specialty is cultivating a variety of lettuces within a massive indoor facility. This space utilizes hydroponics, where plants flourish in water infused with nutrients instead of traditional soil. Additionally, Nuvege leverages advanced lighting systems, likely LEDs, to create ideal light conditions for optimal plant growth.

This approach allows Nuvege to cultivate safe and fresh produce in a controlled environment. Most of their lettuces reach supermarkets, while a portion goes to food service clients like Subway and Disney. Nuvege’s achievement exemplifies the potential of vertical farming to revolutionize food production, particularly in urban areas, by promoting local, sustainable, and safe agricultural practices.

2. PlantLab, Den Bosch, Holland

PlantLab is a three-story vertical underground farm in Den Bosch, Holland, which uses advanced LED technology. It calibrates light composition and intensity to satisfy precise needs and removes sunlight wavelengths, preventing plant growth. The farm operates a system that monitors and controls a range of variables, including humidity, carbon dioxide, light intensity, light color, airspeed, irrigation, nutritional value, and air temperature. The high-tech farm yields three times the average greenhouse level while reducing water consumption by 90%.

3. Sky Greens, Singapore

Singapore’s Sky Greens is one of the most promising vertical farms. It is three stories tall and uses a method called “A-Go-Gro” (AGG), which uses translucent greenhouses for tropical leafy vegetables with a much higher yield throughout the year than traditional agricultural methods. The AGG system consists of high aluminum A-frames with growing troughs containing various growing mediums—soil, and hydroponics, up to 9 m (30 ft) in length and 38 levels. The A-frame system measures just 5.6 m² (60 ft²) and is ten times more efficient than traditional farming. The troughs slowly rotate the aluminum frame (approximately three rotations a day) to ensure uniform sunlight. Continuous exposure in certain building areas also reduces or eliminates the need for artificial lighting. Rotation is driven by a patented hydraulic low-carbon system containing tray plants. Every other day, Sky Greens can produce a ton of fresh vegetables. It offers a wide range of tropical vegetables, including Chinese cod, lettuce, Xiao Bai Cai, bayam, kang kong, cai xin, gai lan, and nai bai.

4. Green Spirit Farms, New Buffalo, Michigan, USA

Green Spirit Farms (GSF) is a professional food firm based in New Buffalo, Michigan, actively engaged in vertical agriculture. It aims to provide local markets with high-quality, fresh, pesticide-free, non-genetically modified (GMO) food at low prices. GSF has advanced several vegetable-growing technologies, including the Volksgarden Rotary Garden Unit, called the Rotary Vertical Growing Station (RVGS), and the multi-level tray system of the Vertical Growing Station (VGS). GSF has sold rotary and vertical farming systems using patented techniques for cultivating local vegetables, herbs, and some fruits. The company produces high-demand products such as lettuce, basil, spinach, kale, arugula, peppers, tomatoes, stevia, strawberries, and Brussels sprouts.

5. FarmedHere, Bedford Park, Illinois, USA

FarmedHere was founded in 2011 and expanded to three locations in Illinois — Englewood, Flanagan, and Bedford Park. The company aims to deliver 6% or more of the demand for premium green and gastronomic herbs in Chicago. Bedford Park, America’s largest vertical indoor farm, is in a two-story windowless warehouse designed to cover the entire space. The farm consists of two buildings with large beds illuminated by fluorescent lighting. The first structure includes the aquaponics system, where water circulates between tanks of fish and feeds the plants that rest on the styrofoam “floats.” The second structure contains the aeroponic system, which includes underwater misters that spray the exposed plant roots. Workers plant seeds and cultivate seedlings on racks, which they then transfer to growing systems. Crops are harvested and packed in the facility’s cooling room. After about a month, they are sent to grocers.

6. The Plant, Chicago, Illinois, USA

Located in Chicago, The Plant is a zero-energy facility with an on-site combined heating and power (CHP) system containing a large anaerobic digester. It converts food waste into biogas to power, heat, and cool the building. The anaerobic digester captures and burns methane from 27 tons of food waste per day and 11,000 tons per year to generate electricity and heat. The plant now produces greens, mushrooms, bread, and kombucha tea.

7. Green Girls Produce, Memphis, Tennessee, USA

Green Girls Produce is a Memphis-based professional food company. As Tennessee’s first vertical indoor farm, it provides local restaurants with year-round fresh produce to improve the health of Memphians and fight urban blight. Green Girls estimates a $1 million annual revenue. It offers affordable microgreens by harnessing the power of automated, recirculating hydroponic systems requiring only two employees. It is clean, efficient, and uses less water. Green Girls uses only LED lighting and 90 percent less water than conventional farming, with the help of green energy.