Vertical agriculture is the cultivation of certain agricultural crops in a vertical arrangement. One of the primary goals of agricultural production is to increase the yield per unit area, and here vertical agriculture is a concept offering “vertical cultivation”, as opposed to the concept of conventional agricultural production where the yield is increased through “horizontal cultivation”.
Vertical agriculture most often involves the soilless cultivation of crops, like hydroponics, aquaponics and aeroponics in a fully controlled environment. In vertical agriculture all factors of growth (light, temperature, humidity, concentration of carbon dioxide, water, and nutrients) are precisely controlled in order for the crops to produce high yields of quality fresh products during the course of the entire year, completely independent from external conditions. This control can be fully automated by using the appropriate computer systems and sensors.
This method of producing vegetable crops has significant advantages in environments lacking soil with characteristics adequate for agricultural production, and in urban environments. Buildings, transport containers, tunnels and other infrastructure can be used as infrastructure for vertical agriculture. Vertical agriculture is an exceptionally sustainable system when it comes to the use of water, fertilizers, and space, though the steep initial investment costs and high use of energy are still a daunting challenge for its initiation.
The advantages of agricultural production in a vertical system are:
- Increased density of plants and multiplied yields
- Quicker vegetable production and out-of-season production
- Production unrelated to soil quality
- Clean and fresh products with no external contamination
- Production using a minimal amount of, or no pesticides
- High efficiency of water use
- Reusing nutrients through a closed system for recycling nutrient solutions
- Good energetic efficiency using targeted cooling and heating
- An ecological system which benefits the environment
- Reduced workforce costs
Figure 1. Stacked horizontal systems for the production of leafy greens
- Balconies – providing the opportunity to introduce more greenery in urban environments and thus directly influencing the improvement of microclimate conditions in cities. With the appropriate planning and infrastructure adjustments, balconies offer an opportunity for raising various decorative plants, but also producing small quantities of vegetables and herbs in urban environments. Each time someone decides to plant a vertical garden in an urban environment they must take into account the quality of the air in the area as well as the sustainable use of water.
- Vertical surfaces for cultivating crops
- Green walls – a technique of vertical agriculture which uses the walls or facades of buildings to cultivate plants. Green walls are surfaces difficult to use for the cultivation of agricultural crops due to multiple reasons such as the exposure to pollution in urban environments, irrigation issues, height as a limiting factor in the collection of plants. However, similar to balconies, green walls are an ideal solution for cultivating decorative plants which contribute to the aesthetic bеautification of city environments and play a big part in developing pleasant microclimates and mitigating high temperatures in cities, trapping dust, pollutants and the like. The types of plants cultivated on green walls should be carefully chosen from the aspect of their sensitivity to the likely negative factors in urban environments and from the aspect of sustainable water use.
Figure 2. A green wall in an urban environment.
- Cylindrical cultivation units – in this system plants are grown one above the other in cylindrical units, their roots placed in soil or more often substrate, and they are sustained with a nutrient solution. This is the most typical example of vertical agriculture compared to the previously listed systems. This system is most often used to grow green salads, herbs and strawberries.
Over the past few years there have been attempts to introduce and practice vertical agriculture in the Republic of North Macedonia. Vertical agriculture is still in its beginning stages, practiced by experts and enthusiasts who wish to attempt new ways of producing food. It usually refers to the production of microgreens of various types which are used for food due to their richness of functional metabolites, and functional food.
Here are some of these microbusinesses, discoverable on social networking sites:
- Mikrosalati Nutrifarm Microgreens – Mikrosalati Nutrifarm Microgreens
- Sanja’s microgreens – Sanja’s microgreens
- House of microgreens – House of microgreens
- Plant Engineering – spinoff company for the development of novel foods and natural products, microgreens among them
- Green Republic – a microcompany which produces organic vegetables. The company has a small production of vegetables in aquaponics.
Beacham, A. M., Vickers, L. H., & Monaghan, J. M. (2019). Vertical farming: a summary of approaches to growing skywards. The Journal of Horticultural Science and Biotechnology, 94(3), 277-283.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vertical_farming#cite_note-Terazono-2 – accessed on 06.07.2022
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_wall – accessed on 07.07.2022
About the Author
Professor Dr. Fidanka Trajkova
Professor Dr. Fidanka Trajkova is a part-time professor at the Agricultural Faculty of the “Goce Delchev” University of Stip. She is the author of a number of scientific and expert papers published in international reviews and presented at domestic and international conferences, and she has been on the teams for many scientific and expert projects. The focus of her work is improving crops through various biotechnological methods and introducing sustainable agricultural systems. The entirety of professor Dr. Fidanka Trajkova’s published scientific, research, and expert work is available on the UGD repository.