World's first commercial vertical farm opens in Singapore
26th October 2012
Vertical farming has attracted a lot of interest in recent years for its potential to solve the looming food crisis. Now a company in Singapore has opened the world's first commercial operation based on the concept.
Sky Greens was founded by Jack Ng, who started building a prototype in 2009. Through a public-private sector collaboration, the company developed multi-layered troughs in rotating A-frame vertical structures, called "A-Go-Gro". This green technology was successfully tested and proven in 2011. It has now been commercialised.
Singapore is the world's 3rd most densely populated nation, with 7,363 people/km2 at the last official count. New land is in extremely short supply, with most having already been developed and urbanised. The city-state is highly dependent on foreign imports and only 7% of its vegetables are grown locally.
Sky Greens hopes to improve this situation by introducing its vertical farms to investors. The first of its commercial facilities consists of 120 aluminium towers, each 9m (29 ft) tall. Around 0.5 tonnes of vegetables are produced each day. The company is aiming to quadruple this output by 2013 and is seeking US$21 million for upgrades.
At present, only three kinds of vegetables can be grown, and these cost 10 to 20 cents more than those from other sources. However, customers are reportedly enthusiastic about these "green" products and supermarkets are struggling to keep up with demand. In any case, Sky Greens expects the price to drop as the farm expands its supply.
Prototype vertical farms are being tested and developed in a number of other countries including the US – see for example Plantagon. They are predicted to be fairly widespread by 2025. Entire skyscrapers could eventually be used for crop growing. These would provide dozens of times the yield of normal field crops, while using a fraction of the water typically required for soil farming.