Up, Up and Away! The Economics of Vertical Farming
With rising population and purchasing power, demand for food and changing consumer preferences are building pressure on our resources. Vertical Farming, which means growing food in skyscrapers, might help to solve many of these problems. The purpose of this study was to construct a Vertical Farm and thereof investigate the economic feasibility of it. In a concurrent Engineering Study initiated by DLR Bremen, a farm, 37 floors high, was designed and simulated in Berlin to estimate the cost of production and market potential of this technology. It yields about 3,500 tons of fruits and vegetables and ca. 140 tons of tilapia fillets, 516 times more than expected from a footprint area of 0.25 ha due to stacking and multiple harvests. The investment costs add up to € 200 million, and it requires 80 million litres of water and 3.5 GWh of power per year. The produced food costs between € 3.50 and € 4.00 per kilogram. In view of its feasibility, we estimate a market for about 50 farms in the short term and almost 3000 farms in the long term. To tap the economic, environmental and social benefits of this technology, extensive research is required to optimise the production process.
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