Reviewing the energy and environmental performance of vertical farming systems in urban
In this study, the sustainability of the vertical farming system at Node Farm has been evaluated. Node Farm is located in southern Stockholm in an old refrigerated shipping container, and will start the production of cress during spring 2018. Denna rapport finns endast på engelska. Svensk sammanfattning finns i rapporten.
The global population is increasing rapidly, and the amount of people living in urban areas are expected to almost double within 30 years. With a rising population, the demand for food and pressure on arable land is also increasing. Currently, about 25 % of the greenhouse gases emitted from Sweden come from agricultural activities. Thus with an increasing population, it is essential to aim to reduce the emissions from the food supply.
Vertical farming has seen increasing popularity as a way to reduce the need for arable land and grow crops where they are to be consumed. When farming indoors in a closed environment, the plants are protected from the weather, insects and pests. There are no leakages of nutrients in closed systems and the amount of water used is very limited in comparison to conventional farming. However, artificial lighting is needed in order for the crops to grow. Additionally, vertical farming is capital intensive and requires technical knowledge to be able to make use of the new techniques and equipment available.
In this study, the sustainability of the vertical farming system at Node Farm has been evaluated. Node Farm is located in southern Stockholm in an old refrigerated shipping container, and will start the production of cress during spring 2018. The energy use and environmental impacts for the production of hydroponic herbs (cress) were assessed using life cycle assessment (LCA) from a cradle-to-gate perspective. This included the materials (e.g. hempflux and plastic boxes) used for growing cress and the energy consumed for heating and lighting. The use (consumption), waste management and transports to and from the company were not included in this study.
The results illustrated a large share of energy used for the manufacturing of the plastic box to package the cress. Also the largest source of negative environmental impacts was due to the manufacturing of the plastic box.
There are possibilities to reduce the energy consumption and environmental impacts by choosing another material for packaging. While extended transportation distances of food is one of the main arguments for urban agriculture, energy consumption and environmental impacts for transportation were found to be a minor part of the energy use and environmental impacts. Finally, the socio-economic implications of urban farming should be taken into account in reviews of the sustainability. This study focuses on energy and environmental impacts, but the socio-economic benefits and resilience of the local community are important to highlight