Vertical farming can also offer a host of environmental benefits. Vertical farming in cities can be more sustainable because food does not have to travel hundreds or thousands of miles to get to your plate, thus greatly decreasing transport costs and carbon dioxide emissions. Currently, about 14% of the energy that goes into producing food is spent on transporting that food to grocery stores across the country, and then to our tables. Vertical farming can also avoid the need for harmful pesticides because the indoor environment excludes most pests, weeds, and fungi in the first place. Soil erosion will not be a problem because the food will be grown hydroponically, and modern recycling techniques will ensure that only a fraction of the amount of water and nutrients will be needed compared with conventional farming.
Some engineers have proposed solutions to vertical farming’s weaknesses. Proponents of vertical farming point out that LED lighting can solve much of the problem of high artificial lighting costs. In addition, as vertical farming technologies improve and develop further, these projects will likely become more economically feasible. Some scientists have pointed to the idea of the “vertically integrated greenhouse,” in which plants would grow around the edges of buildings and offices, “sandwiched between two glass layers and rotating on a conveyor.” Other experts believe that until vertical farming technologies are perfected and made more economically sustainable, growers should aim to take advantage of available space on rooftops, “and to pursue urban farming rather than vertical farming.”
While many startups are not targeting food-insecure groups because they need to gain profit to stay functioning, some companies are. Urban Crop Solutions (UCS) is one company that has integrated the goal to combat food insecurity into its mission. The company points out that with the rising population, growers and engineers need to develop solutions to effectively feed millions more people than they feed today. UCS hopes that “one day everyone, worldwide, will have access to affordable, healthy and tasty food. That by eliminating contaminated rainwater and pesticides from our crops, fewer allergies or other diseases will harm human beings. That everyone is able to cater to her or his own nutritional needs.” Further, some researchers have investigated the potential role of vertical farming in increasing access to healthy foods. The French NGO Solidarites provides women in Kiberia, Kenya with vertical gardens to “offer some security for their owners and provide them with a resource that can add to their incomes.”
While the economic feasibility and sustainability of vertical farming needs further assessment, the practice represents a potentially significant method of improving food accessibility in the future. As traditional farming struggles to maintain its productivity in the face of soil depletion, climate change, decreasing biodiversity, and antibiotic and insecticide resistance, vertical farming could offer a sustainable alternative or addition to traditional farming. According to vertical farm expert Dickson Dispommier, as vertical farming evolves, “I am confident that cheap, reliable, highly productive versions of vertical farms will be invented to serve everyone who wants one.”
 Besthorn, Fred (2013). Vertical Farming: Social Work and Sustainable Urban Agriculture in an Age of Global Food Crises. Australian Social Work, 66(2):187-203.