LAUNCH Water

Stephen Kennedy Smith : VertiCrop

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VertiCrop

VertiCrop: A high-density vertical crop production system that produces up to 20 times the yields and uses a fraction of the land, water, and other resources associated with conventional farming.

Global population projections estimate that by the year 2050 there could be more than 10 billion humans on the planet, and 70 percent will live in cities. Feeding an additional 2.2 billion people—nearly all of which will be born into resource-poor regions of developing countries—will require an increase in food production of 70 percent, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. While technically the planet possesses sufficient water and other resources to feed the world of 2050, these resources are distributed disproportionately across the globe, and tend to be especially scarce in the areas that need them most.

THE PROBLEM

Irrigation accounts for some 70 percent of all water removed from freshwater sources worldwide. Although irrigation practices enable crop production in regions with low rainfall, they are typically inefficient and unsustainable. Indeed, suitable water supplies for direct human use and agriculture are becoming increasingly scarce in many parts of the world as both ground and surface waters tend to be poorly managed, overused for agricultural purposes, and ever more polluted. Changes in weather patterns due to climate change are predicted to intensify water scarcity issues. Without a doubt, meeting the food challenges of the 21st century and beyond will require an agricultural revolution involving new production methods and technologies that increase crop yields while simultaneously using less water.

THE INNOVATION

VertiCrop™ is a commercial, high-density, vertical crop growing system developed over several years by Valcent Americas to raise vegetables and other foods with less water and other inputs. Pilot studies have demonstrated yields up to 20 times higher and water requirements 95 percent lower than those in conventional field conditions. The hydroponic method and vertical design allow crops to be raised in a variety of arid environments, including urban centers and deserts. The ability to grow food virtually anywhere could significantly improve food security and access to fresh and nutritious produce, while reducing irrigation costs, stress on water supply, and transportation costs and pollution.

THE VISION

Valcent Americas envisions VertiCrop™ as a technology that could transform the way food is produced in the future, where there are more mouths to feed and less suitable water available. This innovation makes it possible to grow a variety of crops in a way that meets demand on-location, overcoming the water and other resource challenges of urban agriculture.

“In a rapidly urbanizing world where the majority of people now live in cities, localization requires that food and fuel be produced in an urban context. At present, there is no example of a locally sustained urban community anywhere in the world. Urban sustainability is yet to be realized primarily because urban agriculture presents a number of technological challenges, not the least of which is water scarcity.” —Stephen Kennedy Smith, Valcent Americas
Moving forward, Valcent hopes to develop VertiCrop™ systems that could be housed indoors using artificial light and energy from solar panels. Next steps will include engaging the support of water experts in expanding Valcent’s vision for VertiCrop™ and the democratization of agriculture, and development of a marketing strategy to encourage adoption of this innovation on individual, corporate and municipal levels.