Vertical Farming vs. Farming Vertically

20 Flares Twitter 7 Facebook 6 Google+ 7 StumbleUpon 0 Pin It Share 0 LinkedIn 0 Buffer 0 Email -- Reddit 0 20 Flares ×

What’s the Difference Between Vertical Farming and Farming Vertically? *

It’s a great question and relatively simple to answer.

“Vertical Farms” in the News

Unless you’re living under a rock, you’ve probably seen the recent headlines about “vertical farming.”


Farming Vertically

Troughs of bok choy stack up vertically at the 30-feet urban farm in Singapore. The veggies rotate along the A-frame to ensure they receive even light. (Photo courtesy of MNDSingapore & caption via NPR News)

For example “Nation’s Largest Indoor Vertical Farm, Opens In Chicago Area” (Via The Huffington Post) or “First Vertical Farm Opens in Singapore” (Via

And, with the vivid images of lush, green basil plants and bok choy growing up to the sky, it’s easy to see why these futuristic farms are making headlines.

They’re gorgeous, right?

Something about that vivid green color just draws you in and delights the eye.

For many outside of the urban farming or backyard gardening world, this may be extra appealing because they don’t get to see food being grown very often.

If you didn’t notice, there’s a real disconnect for most of our country as to where our food comes from (hint: it isn’t grown in the produce section of Whole Foods or Safeway… you knew that though…right?).

So when we think about these “vertical farms” in the context of our current food culture, it’s no surprise they’re so popular!

BUT, are they really vertical farms?


“Vertical Farming” vs. “Farming Vertically” *

First, we want to make it clear that we’re very excited to see commercial farmers start being more efficient with their available growing space!

We’re big supporters of more sustainable agricultural practices, especially when they strive to do good!

In this case, “doing good” means feeding people healthier, more localized produce options. We think that’s an admirable venture in any case.  

Although, when we look at the approaches taken by both FarmedHere and Sky Greens Farm, we see they’re both still a traditional horizontal farming technique.

By that, I mean they’ve merely stacked traditional horizontal hydroponic or aquaponic farming methods on top of one another.

The fact is, its NOT a fundamental shift in production technique, but instead an alternate way to organize for traditional (old) techniques.

This differs in fact from truly vertical farming which takes an entirely original look at the idea of growing crops volumetrically, completely discarding the old guard definition of farming.

So… What is Vertical Farming? *

True vertical farming confronts the challenges of traditional horizontal production by designing systems to:

  • ZipGrow Vertical Farming Towers of Lettuce

    ZipGrow Vertical Farming Towers of Lettuce

    Be more efficient with time and limited [economic and environmental] resource by growing more in a smaller space yet incurring smaller infrastructure costs, energy costs and eliminating most post-harvest labor/packaging;

  • Be more ergonomic and conducive to the needs of the farmer/laborers ensuring faster and easier planting and harvesting;
  • Be more energy efficient and have less impact on both the farmer’s bottom line and the world around us.

In all, true vertical farming insists on starting with design to promote universal sustainability (i.e. sustaining the local communities farmers serve by relying on fewer natural resources to grow, harvest and transport healthier food which in turn sustains the farmer’s livelihood and our collective environmental resources).

…And, from our perspective, this type of farming design is completely different from farming vertically with traditional horizontal designs.

Vertical farming differs from farming vertically in a few ways… *


1) Infrastructure Investment *

Farming vertically, that is, using stacked beds or NFT (nutrient film technique) requires much more intensity than vertical farming.

"vertical farming"

The massive infrastructure of large scale commercial “vertical farms” (Via Iowa Public Television)

For one, the infrastructure itself often requires massive investment because of the sheer loads these systems accumulate when stacked vertically.

Contrary to that, true vertical farming technique designs often approach volumetric space-based growing from the ground up.

For instance, when designing our ZipGrow Towers, we looked at several different components necessary for productive, energy efficient and cost effective farming.

You see, ZipGrow towers are designed to be light weight as to reduce the cost of support infrastructure and enable farmers to easily plant, maintain and transport towers live to market.

Not only does this enable a whole host of other benefits (e.g. live sales) it also reduces the time it takes to harvest a farmer’s crops, leading us into the next difference between vertical farming and farming vertically.

2) Harvesting Efficiency & Human Energy Expenditure *

vertical farming

Farming vertically with horizontal techniques often requires some awkward positions to tend crops.

Farming vertically with stacked beds, NFT troughs or even rotating carousels like the farm in Singapore often require a great deal of human labor to plant, tend and harvest the crops.

These designs either require more mechanical energy (e.g. Singapore’s Sky Greens Farm) or more human energy to crawl into tighter places in order to effectively tend and harvest crops.

Vertical farming, when designed with common issues in mind, can bypass them altogether granting the farmer a more ergonomic and efficient means of planting, tending and harvesting.



3) Energy Efficiency *

Traditional horizontal techniques, at least in the northern hemisphere, often require supplemental lighting to produce uniform, salable crops.

It goes without saying that indoor growing requires massive investments in supplemental lighting, which of course require more energy no matter how efficient your bulbs are. This type of operational cost is far from practical for the small producer just starting out and can often pose installation challenges as well leading to more frustration and recurring expenses.

And of course when introducing mechanical carousels to equally provide light to plants also requires a grower to have more energy expenses penciled permanently into their budget.

True vertical farming, on the other hand can combat these challenges from the start and implement designs that utilize all natural light and eliminate light extinction. This in turn reduces a farmer’s energy expenses and helps him grow more in his space.


While these techniques are miles apart, vertical farming and farming vertically are not so different… *

As different as vertical farming and farming vertically techniques are, they have a lot in common too.

For one, they are both ways of trying to localize production of food and serve more localized communities with fresher, healthier produce.

Second, they are both in response to the challenges and strains put on traditional agriculture practices (e.g. soil degradation and loss of arable land, sprawling cities, and massive transportation costs).

We are excited about the steps more and more producers are taking towards providing customers a higher quality product and feel encouraged to be a major part in the fresh food revolution!

Congrats to @FarmedHere and Sky Green Farms for taking that first step towards more sustainable agriculture.

Want to start a successful commercial aquaponic farming operation? *

Don’t make these mistakes! The Top 10 Mistakes Made By Aquaponic Growers



  1. Boy, are those systems figh maintenance, and the one in chi town doesn’t even use real sunlight which has to do things for plants we are not aware of yet.

    • I meant to say high maintenance like my wife. Ow,who just gave me a well deserved swat.

  2. I’m planning on using 8″ wide rolls of vacuum seal bags about 6′ long sections filled with grow media like rock wool. And stack railroad ties about 4 foot high with pond liner material for tilapia.



  1. Vertical Farming vs. Farming Vertically – Vertical Food Blog | UrsulaSola's Blog - [...] See on [...]
  2. Vertical Farm Photos - Friday 5/3/2013 - [...] Monday: Vertical Farming vs. Farming Vertically  [...]
  3. Vertical Farm Photos - Friday 5/10/2013 - [...] Monday: The Best Way to Plant Seeds  [...]
  4. My Homepage - ... [Trackback]... [...] Find More Informations here: [...]...
  5. Clicking Here - ... [Trackback]... [...] Informations on that Topic: [...]...
  6. The Best Crops For Vertical Farming - Vertical Food Blog - [...] about the difference between vertical farming and farming vertically? — Check it [...]
  7. comment - ... [Trackback]... [...] There you will find 44024 more Infos: [...]...
  8. Information Product System - ... [Trackback]... [...] There you will find 71302 more Infos: [...]...
  9. Vertical Farm Photos - Friday 6/14//2013 - [...] Monday: Companion Planting: What Plants Grow Well Together? [...]
  10. Vertical Farming vs. Farming Vertically – Vertical Food Blog | Youmanitas Energy Farms Weblog - [...] See on [...]
  11. Vertical Farm Photos - Friday 6/21/2013 - Vertical Food Blog - [...] Monday: Companion Planting: What Plants Grow Well Together? [...]
  12. Dr. Nate Storey (Aquaponics Expert) - Bright Agrotech - […] other “vertical techniques” out there were simply taking traditional horizontal methods and stacking them on top of one […]
  13. Get Excited About Vertical Farming - Bright Agrotech - […] If you look at any conceptualization of the “vertical farm of the future”, you’ll see it’s merely the same …
  14. Vertical Farming Resources | Organic Crop Production at FVCC - […] Vertical Farming vs. Farming Vertically […]
  15. What are the Best Crops For Vertical Farming? - […] Dig Deeper >> Vertical farming vs. Farming vertically […]
  16. Vertical Farming Crops | Home Best Garden Trellis - […] Vertical Farming vs. Farming Vertically – Bright Agrotech – Vertical farming is gaining popularity, but what is vertical farming? …
  17. Vertical Economic Gardening Name Definitions | Home Best Garden Trellis - […] Vertical Farming vs. Farming Vertically – Bright Agrotech – “Vertical Farming” vs. “Farming Vertically” First, we want to make …
  18. Vertical Economic Urban Gardening Definition | Home Best Garden Trellis - […] Vertical Farming vs. Farming Vertically – Bright Agrotech – “Vertical Farming” vs. “Farming Vertically” First, we want to make …
  19. What is an Upstart Farmer? - […] their crops grow vertically, they’re slowly changing the face of modern agriculture and small […]
  20. The Spring - An Interview with Dr. Nate Storey - Vertical Food Blog - […] have one in my house? And most of the time, these are folks that are just kind of intrigued …
  21. The Koru Collaborative: Redefining New York Urban Farming - […] Truly vertical farms fit perfectly with the small spaces open to growing in our cities. […]
  22. The Future of our Food System: Trick or Treat? - […] Clearing land is a one-dimensional approach to the problem. Why would we expand our food production horizontally when we …

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

20 Flares Twitter 7 Facebook 6 Google+ 7 StumbleUpon 0 Pin It Share 0 LinkedIn 0 Buffer 0 Email -- Reddit 0 20 Flares ×