Adele Peters’ recent story in Fast Company titled “The Vertical Farming Bubble Is Finally Popping” outlines how even though lots of people have tried various versions of this idea, none of them have made money and investors are losing interest.
The most basic problem with vertical farming is kind of obvious: if you’re trying to farm in a large indoor structure you need to build it, which is expensive, and at the end of the day you’re still selling low-margin agricultural commodities. But even though that’s a daunting obstacle, there are offsetting reasons to think it could be a good business idea. The real killer turns out to be energy. Plants are, in effect, really good solar panels that capture the sun’s rays for free and use that energy to grow. If you want to grow plants inside, though, you need to use electricity to power lights that then power the plants. There are a lot of ways to make electricity, of course, including solar panels, but using solar panels to make electricity to…
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