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Is Vertical Farming the Future of Agriculture? How the Siemens-Infinite Acres Partnership is Future-Proofing Sustainability

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In Andy Weir’s novel (and, in 2015, the Matt Damon-starring film) The Martian, the main Mars-stranded character is able to survive on the red planet due to the Hab, aka the Mars Lander Habitat. By shoveling Martian dirt into the Hab (and mixing it with other substances, plus by burning rocket fuel), Mark Watney (aka the man marooned there) is able to cultivate bacteria and nutrients in the soil and successfully grow potatoes.

So, why bring this up to you, reader? Well, other than sliding in a recommendation to read and watch The Martian, the news we’ve got today made me think of that story and the futuristic implications achievable not just in science fiction, but via real-world applications.

Let me explain.

This news involves Siemens Netherlands, as well as Infinite Acres (the latter being a tech company that’s part of 80 Acre Farms). The two companies agreed to collaborate on a multi-part research center, housed at Infinite Acres’ headquarters in The Hague.

The Hague. The Hab. That was my first The Martian reference.

But there’s more.

Just as Watney’s character engineered Martian spuds, the plan that Siemens and Infinite Acres are one step closer to unfolding involves the building-out of a vertical farming Field-Lab and Experience Center in The Hague, a practice of growing crops that may as well be ripped from sci-fi lore.

Vertical farming, for any unaware, is the agricultural practice of farming on vertical surfaces (via innovative hydroponic systems), as opposed to the traditional types of horizontal farming most of us are familiar with. By using vertically stacked layers, its farmers are able to produce much more food on the same (or even fewer) spaces of land. Just Google this and you’ll see; photos of vertical farming are reminiscent of tall hedge mazes of lettuce or a library full of shelves of radishes. (This vertical greenhouse-like process also requires artificial temperature adjustments, light, humidity control, water, etc.)

And this isn’t even happening on Mars. It’s happening right here, on terra firma.

So, back to the news. In its joint-effort research center, Siemens will integrate its state-of-the-art hardware and software capabilities with Infinite Acres operating platform for controlled environment growing technology. Together, the goal is to advance vertical farming for global partners, thus expediting the industry and also opening doorways to new markets in which such sustainable practices can be repurposed.

“Vertical farming is a sustainable, yet high-tech solution that requires both experts in agriculture and technology to work together to scale new solutions quickly,” said John Parrott, Vice President and Food and Beverage at Siemens Digital Industries US. “The result will be nutritious food – and food that is easily accessible on a global scale. That’s the dream.”

With the potential to address issues like excessive water consumption, soil degradation and unpredictable weather conditions (and their impacts), vertical farming allows for data-driven traceability of crops’ journeys from seed to shelf. Indoor farms, supply chain reliability, reduced waste, and fresher food.

“In bringing together Siemens technology and Infinite Acres’ growing expertise, we will help solve diverse challenges surrounding agriculture,” said Tisha Livingston, Infinite Acres’ CEO. “Our collaboration with Siemens is helping us standardize, industrialize, and scale our vertical farming technology, so we can feed the future.”

Imagine that.

So while we aren’t quite one-giant-leaping-for-mankind onto Mars yet, a sustainable future via all-year, smarter vertical farming is certainly more within our reach.


Edited by Greg Tavarez
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