The COVID-19 pandemic illustrates how critical it is for major centres of population to have localised agri-food production sites – and particularly urban and peri-urban vertical farm facilities, contends Joel Cuello, Professor of Biosystems Engineering at The University of Arizona and Vice Chair of the Association for Vertical Farming, in a March 2020 blog for Vertical Farming.
Prof. Cuello notes that in wide-scale crises such as pandemics, issues with labour shortages and ‘lockdown bureaucracies’ can disrupt food production and distribution within and between nations, causing delays and even food shortages.
Lauding the fresh-food self-sufficiency of New York City thanks to its concentration of commercial-scale urban vertical farms, he reminds that in the event of a crisis in which a city or region is isolated, having a self-sufficient, sustainable food supply close to consumers is an imperative.
“The coronavirus pandemic lockdowns have laid bare, if fortuitously, the crucial importance of partial local food production in or around world cities in the context of urban resilience,” Prof. Cuello says, listing several features of vertical farms that make them “especially significant toward buttressing a city’s resilience in the event of a pandemic lockdown”. These include:
- local production of safe, fresh produce;
- a clean, controlled-environment, amenable to automation – circumventing labour shortages and minimising or eliminating food and worker-to-worker contamination;
- modular production units, such as shipping containers, that can be moved around as needed;
- reliability – producing consistently high-yield, high-quality harvests year-round that are virtually guaranteed, regardless of external conditions.
Prof. Cuello contends that “the urban planning and design of every world city should incorporate vertical farms, in and/or around it, not only for promoting food security — but for fostering disaster resilience as well. During a pandemic … vertical farms can serve as helping outposts of resilience for cities and regions on lockdown … not only locally, but … globally.”
Source: Coronavirus pandemic highlights vital need for vertical farms in world cities I Vertical Farming