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A Quick Guide to Start Vertical Farming

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One of the challenges of urban farming is the limited space that is available in urban areas. What if we want to dabble in urban farming at home but only have a small space available? We can actually maximize the space available by using the vertical farming method.

Vertical farming is farming that is done vertically. Yeah, you did not expect that, did you?😂

Jokes aside, it is used to utilize the space available to produce as many crops as we can by arranging farming vertically. Vertical farming is gaining more and more popularity as a method of urban farming due to its broad range of benefits that conventional farming lacks. When done right, vertical farming can reduce water usage, increase the number of crops in one area, and eliminate the use of herbicide, pesticide, and fungicide [1]. There are several things that we might want to consider when we are going to start building our own vertical farming.



Choose the right crops

First things first, we need to choose what crops we want to grow. The options are indeed more limited than conventional farming. Several plants that are usually grown in vertical farming are leafy greens, tomatoes, flowers, herbs, and microgreens [2]. It all depends on our own personal goal. For domestic use, we can choose what plants we eat or use in the kitchen. While, for commercial use, our choice depends on the local market's condition. This is then adjusted to weather conditions and if the plants are suitable for urban farming.


Choose your medium

Growing crops in vertical farming can be done by using a variety of different growing mediums. That includes soil-based, hydroponic, aeroponic, and even aquaponic [2,3]. Surely, every method has its own pros and cons, and complexity. Soil-based medium is the same medium that is used on conventional farming, the most common cultivation method. The soil will provide the nutrients, moisture, and anchorage for the plants to grow. It is easy to do but requires more maintenance substances such as herbicide, pesticide, and fungicide.

Hydroponics use water as its cultivation medium. A part of the roots are submerged in a flow of water that contains nutrients, and the other part of the roots are left above the water surface for aeration purpose. It uses less water but the method itself is more complex than soil-based medium. Energy usage is relatively higher due to the pumping of nutrient solution. There are several parameters that must be controlled in the water and nutrient flow such as pH levels, nutrient concentrations, and dissolved oxygen to ensure maximum yield of the farm.

Aeroponic technically does not use any growing medium. Plants’ roots are suspended mid-air and kept in a chamber with 100% humidity. Nutrients are provided by spraying nutrient solution every once in a while. Aeroponic offers a better aeration for the plants due to the absence of medium thus promoting growth for the plants. However, this method requires more knowledge and the use of technology to get a good result on the farm.

Last but not least, the aquaponic is a combination of aquaculture (a.k.a. fish farming) and hydroponic. The nutrient input for the hydroponic system comes from aquaculture, while the nutrient input from the aquaculture comes from the fish feed. The fish that are fed will then defect waste that is rich in nitrogen. The nitrogen is then converted into absorbable nitrogen by microbes and then will be used by the plants as the nutrient source by flowing aquaculture wastewater into the hydroponic system. The use of this method will produce an additional product in the form of fish that is grown on the aquaculture system. However, this system is also more complex and requires a lot of knowledge regarding hydroponics and aquacultures to perform well using this method.





(+) Simple

(+) Easy to learn

​(-) Many resources that are needed


(+) Grow faster

(+) More resistant to fungi, herbs, or other pests

(-) Relatively more complex

(-) Requires more knowledge in parameters of nutrient solutions that need to be controlled

(-) Energy usage relative higher


(+) Requires less space

(+) Grow faster

(+) More resistant to fungi, herbs, or other pests

(-) Relatively more complex

(-) Requires more knowledge and technology to provide nutrients accordingly


(+) Minimal input

(+) More products are obtained (aquaculture products and hydroponic products)

(-) Relatively more complex

(-) Requires more knowledge on aquaculture and hydroponics

(-) Energy usage relative higher



These are all the things that we need to carefully consider and select before starting. Vertical farming is an emerging method of urban farming that might be a solution to issues regarding food security and the sustainability of agriculture. As time moves forward, and technology improves, vertical farming systems will develop to become profitable and affordable. Don’t feel discouraged to start your own vertical farming because you lack experience or knowledge as there are always more things to discover about it. Then, what are you waiting for? Plant seedlings, grab the tools, and let’s start farming vertically!



[1] Despommier, D., (2010). The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st Century. Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press.

[2] Wong, C. E., Teo, Z. W. N., Shen, L., Yu, H. (2020). Seeing the lights for leafy greens in indoor vertical farming. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 106: 48-63

[3] Lu, C., & Grundy, S. (2017). Urban Agriculture and Vertical Farming. Encyclopedia of Sustainable Technologies, 393–402


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