Vertical farming (VF) has been hailed as the future of agriculture, promising to revolutionize food production by maximizing yield per square foot while minimizing environmental impact. But hold your horses! The recent bankruptcy of Infarm and the struggles faced by other VF companies like Agricool, Kalera, and Aerofarms have raised some doubts about the viability of this technology. Don't worry though, this article aims to dive into the challenges faced by the vertical farming industry and shed some light on why it's not just a get-rich-quick scheme but rather a long-term journey that requires a sustainable business model, scientific rigor, and a rockstar team.

The Tug-of-War Between Innovation and Viability in Vertical Farming

Financial Struggles and Bankruptcies

Well, well, well, it seems like Infarm's bankruptcy is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the challenges faced by the vertical farming industry. Don't believe me? Just take a look at the long list of other companies, including Agricool, Kalera, Fifth Season, Iron Ox, Upward Farms, and Aerofarms, who have also hit rock bottom with heavy losses, bankruptcy, or even closure. And let's not forget about AppHarvest and Local Bounti, the Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) companies that have also struggled to stay afloat. It's a tough world out there for vertical farming, my friends. 

This wave of financial difficulties within the vertical farming sector highlights the need for a more comprehensive understanding of the industry's complexities. It is not enough for investors and banks to solely focus on the technology and well-developed plans. Instead, they must also recognize the importance of forming a well-qualified and experienced team. Without this understanding, poor decision-making can prevail, leading to a higher risk of failure.

One of the major challenges that vertical farming faces is the high energy costs associated with maintaining controlled environments. This presents a significant financial burden, as the existing market conditions make it difficult to offset these costs and ensure financial stability. Additionally, the success of any venture, including vertical farming, hinges on the effectiveness of the team dynamics. Skilled growers, energy specialists, team leaders, and data specialists are essential in overcoming the challenges faced by the industry.

Moreover, it is essential to acknowledge that vertical farming is not a universal solution. Its effectiveness is maximized in specific climatic conditions and for high-yielding crops. As a result, niche markets play a vital role in ensuring the viability and success of vertical farming ventures.

In order to establish vertical farming as a sustainable and profitable industry, a long-term approach is necessary. This entails developing a sustainable business model that not only considers immediate profits but also focuses on long-term viability. A science-driven approach is also crucial, as it enables research and development that can lead to innovations making vertical farming more energy-efficient and cost-effective. Additionally, it is imperative to expand the scope beyond cash flow and prioritize values such as sustainability, community engagement, and education.

Insufficient Knowledge Among Investors

Investors and banks have a knack for getting caught up in the shiny allure of technology and well-developed plans, often forgetting about the crucial element of forming a well-qualified and experienced team. It's like trying to win a race with a fancy sports car but forgetting to hire a skilled driver. In the world of vertical farming, having a balanced and skilled team is not just important, it's absolutely essential.

Vertical farming is a complex and dynamic industry that requires expertise in various fields. From skilled growers who understand the intricacies of plant biology and cultivation techniques to energy specialists who can optimize the use of resources and minimize costs, every member of the team plays a crucial role in the success of a vertical farming venture. Additionally, team leaders are essential for effective coordination and management, ensuring that all aspects of the operation run smoothly.

Furthermore, the role of data specialists cannot be overlooked in today's data-driven world. They are responsible for collecting and analyzing data related to crop growth, environmental conditions, and resource usage. This data-driven approach allows for continuous improvement and optimization of farming practices, leading to higher yields and increased profitability.

Investors and banks need to recognize the significance of a well-qualified and experienced team in the vertical farming industry. It is not enough to focus solely on the technology and plans. Without the right team in place, even the most advanced and innovative technologies can fall short of expectations.

By investing in a well-balanced team, investors and banks can mitigate the risks associated with vertical farming and increase the likelihood of success. A team with diverse expertise, experience, and a shared vision can navigate the challenges of the industry and adapt to changing market conditions.

Challenges in Vertical Farming

High Energy Costs

One of the most significant challenges in VF is the high energy cost in some countries esp. in Europe associated with geopolitical decisions. The fluctuating market conditions make it difficult to offset these costs, leading to financial instability.

The significant energy costs in vertical farming stem from the need to create and maintain the perfect growing conditions for the crops. In order to achieve optimal growth 365 days a year. VF facilities must provide precise levels of temperature, humidity, lighting, and ventilation every single day. These controlled environments require a substantial amount of energy to operate, resulting in increased electricity bills and operational expenses.

The cost of energy is a major concern for vertical farming companies and their investors from the beginning. The initial investment required to set up a VF facility, including the installation of advanced lighting systems, climate control systems, and hydroponic or aeroponic growing systems, can be quite substantial. Additionally, the ongoing energy consumption to maintain these systems adds up over time, further straining the financial resources of the company.

Exploring energy-saving solutions and technologies is now skyrocketing amongst the remaining VF companies. For example, some companies are investing in renewable energy sources, such as solar panels and wind turbines, to generate clean and cost-effective electricity for their facilities. Others are implementing even more optimized energy-efficient lighting systems, typically based on LED lights, which consume even less energy while providing even more magic light recipes for plant growth. New growth factors and plant stimulants become the new Kryptonite.

Naturally, VF companies are getting crafty with data and analytics to optimize energy usage and slash costs. By keeping a watchful eye on energy consumption patterns and crunching the numbers, these companies can spot areas of inefficiency and implement strategies to cut down on energy waste. This data-driven approach paves the way for continuous improvements in energy management and can make a big difference in achieving financial stability.

Climate urgency and regional differences

The urgency of climate change varies significantly across regions, and this has a direct impact on market readiness for vertical farming. In areas such as Southeast Asia, where climate change is threatening traditional agriculture through rising sea levels and increased frequency of extreme weather events, the need for controlled indoor farming solutions is immediate. Conversely, in regions such as North America, where traditional agriculture is still relatively stable, the urgency to adopt vertical farming solutions may not be as acute. However, the increasing frequency of wildfires and droughts is beginning to shift the focus towards more sustainable farming methods.

Socio-economic factors also play a crucial role in the adoption of vertical farming. In Southeast Asia, rapid urbanisation is leading to a decrease in arable land, making vertical farming an attractive solution for local food production. In contrast, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region faces challenges such as water scarcity and aridity, which make traditional agriculture difficult. Here, the socio-economic imperative is to find water-efficient farming solutions, which vertical farming can provide. North America, with its advanced economy, can invest more in R&D for vertical farming, but the socio-economic driver is more aligned with consumer demand for locally sourced, organic produce.

The political environment can either help or hinder the adoption of vertical farming. In regions such as MENA, where food security is a major concern, governments are more likely to support vertical farming initiatives. In North America, on the other hand, agricultural subsidies often support traditional farming practices, making it difficult for vertical farms to compete without similar subsidies. Southeast Asia is a mixed bag, with some countries offering incentives for sustainable agriculture, while others lack the political will or resources to support such initiatives.

Land grabbing and ownership issues

One of the lesser-known hurdles in the vertical farming industry is the thorny issue of land grabbing. In regions where land is scarce or highly prized, acquiring land for vertical farming can spark heated debates. This is particularly true in densely populated areas or regions where land is traditionally used for other agricultural practices or development purposes. The process of obtaining large plots of land for vertical farming can lead to conflicts with local communities, traditional farmers, and even government agencies. These disputes can cause delays or even bring vertical farming projects to a standstill, adding another layer of complexity to an already challenging landscape.

Vertical farming initiatives often face significant challenges from influential landowners and traditional farmers who are organized into powerful lobbies. These groups view vertical farming as a threat to their traditional way of life and economic stability. In some cases, they exert political pressure to prevent the allocation of land or resources to vertical farming projects. This lobbying can lead to the implementation of restrictive policies that make it difficult for vertical farming ventures to obtain the necessary permits or financial support.

Another source of opposition comes from organic farmers who see vertical farming as unfair competition. They argue that the controlled environments in vertical farms enable year-round crop production, potentially outcompeting seasonal organic produce. Organic farmers may claim that vertical farming lacks the natural qualities of traditional organic farming. This sentiment can sometimes translate into public campaigns against vertical farming, which can impact consumer perception and market demand.

Market Readiness: A regional perspective

In summary, market readiness for vertical farming is influenced by a complex interplay of climate urgency, socio-economic change and political will, all of which vary considerably from region to region. While Southeast Asia may be driven by the urgent need to adapt to climate change and rapid urbanisation, the MENA region is motivated by the need to find water-efficient farming solutions. North America may have less pressing climate needs, but it is driven by consumer demand for sustainable, locally sourced produce. Understanding these regional nuances is critical for vertical farming companies seeking to establish a sustainable and profitable global presence.

By incorporating these regional factors into their business models, vertical farming companies can better tailor their strategies to meet local needs, thereby increasing their market readiness and long-term viability.

Niche Markets

By focusing on niche markets, vertical farming ventures can maximize their effectiveness and ensure the viability and success of their operations. These niche markets can include specific geographic regions with favorable climatic conditions or crops that have a high demand and can be grown more efficiently in a vertical farming setting.

For example, in regions with limited access to fresh produce due to harsh climates or remote locations, vertical farming can provide a sustainable solution for local food production. By growing crops indoors in a controlled environment, vertical farming can overcome the limitations of traditional agriculture and provide a consistent supply of fresh produce year-round.

High-yielding crops such as leafy greens, herbs, and microgreens are particularly well-suited for vertical farming. These crops have a short growth cycle and can be harvested multiple times, allowing vertical farms to maximize their production and profitability.

By focusing on these niche markets, vertical farming ventures can establish themselves as leaders in their respective industries and build a strong customer base. This targeted approach allows them to cater to the specific needs and preferences of their customers, ensuring that they are providing a valuable and in-demand product.

In addition, vertical farming ventures can strategically focus on specific climatic conditions and crops, allowing them to fine-tune their operations and cut down on costs. By customizing their growing methods and environmental controls to perfectly suit the needs of their chosen crops, they can optimize resource usage and achieve higher yields.

The Importance of a Balanced Team

Just as in Formula 1, where a well-qualified and skilled driver is needed to effectively utilize the power of a fancy sports car, the same principle applies to vertical farming. A state-of-the-art facility alone is not enough to guarantee success. It requires a team of individuals who are not only experts in their respective fields but also possess the necessary skills to navigate the challenges of the industry.

Marketing plays a crucial role in the success of a vertical farming venture. It is essential to effectively communicate the unique benefits and advantages of locally grown, sustainable produce to consumers. A strong marketing strategy can help create awareness and generate demand for the products, ultimately driving sales and revenue for the company.

Sales, on the other hand, are responsible for building and maintaining relationships with customers, distributors, and retailers. They play a vital role in expanding the market reach of the vertical farming venture and securing partnerships and contracts that ensure a consistent demand for the produce. A well-executed sales strategy can contribute significantly to the financial stability and profitability of the company.

However, even with effective marketing and sales efforts, a well-balanced and experienced team is the backbone of a successful vertical farming venture. Each member brings their unique expertise and knowledge to the table, contributing to the overall efficiency and productivity of the operation.

Skilled growers are essential for understanding the intricacies of plant biology and cultivation techniques, ensuring that crops grow efficiently and yield high-quality produce. Energy specialists optimize resource usage and minimize costs, finding innovative solutions to reduce the high energy consumption associated with maintaining controlled environments in vertical farms. Team leaders provide effective coordination and management, ensuring that all aspects of the operation run smoothly and efficiently.

Data specialists, on the other hand, play a vital role in collecting and analyzing data related to crop growth, environmental conditions, and resource usage. Their expertise enables continuous improvement and optimization of farming practices, which is essential for vertical farming ventures to overcome challenges and effectively adapt to changing market conditions. A diverse team with a shared vision allows for a comprehensive approach to data analysis, ensuring that the insights gained are utilized to their fullest potential.

Vertical Farming: A Long-Term Journey

Sustainable Business Model

One key aspect of a sustainable business model for vertical farming is diversification. By diversifying the crops grown and the markets served, a vertical farming venture can reduce its reliance on a single crop or customer base. This diversification strategy can help mitigate risks associated with changing market conditions, such as fluctuations in demand or price volatility. By offering a wide range of crops and targeting different customer segments, a vertical farming venture can create a stable and resilient business model that can withstand market fluctuations and economic uncertainties.

Innovation is the name of the game when it comes to a sustainable business model for vertical farming. As the industry evolves and competition heats up, vertical farming companies need to stay one step ahead by constantly thinking outside the box and embracing new technologies and practices. This means investing in research and development to boost crop yields and quality, exploring untapped markets and distribution channels, and coming up with inventive solutions to cut down on energy consumption and operational costs. By always pushing the boundaries and adapting to the ever-changing market dynamics, a vertical farming venture can maintain its edge and ensure long-term success.

What's more, a sustainable business model for vertical farming should totally put environmental sustainability and social responsibility at the top of its priority list. With consumers becoming increasingly aware of the impact their purchasing decisions have on the planet and society, it's crucial for vertical farming ventures to show their dedication to sustainable practices and ethical standards. This means using eco-friendly growing methods, minimizing waste and resource usage, and collaborating with local communities to create jobs and forge partnerships. By aligning their business practices with sustainable and ethical principles, vertical farming ventures can not only attract environmentally conscious consumers but also contribute to the overall well-being of the planet and society. Talk about a win-win situation!

In conclusion, vertical farming is not a quick money-making venture. It requires a sustainable business model that considers long-term viability and encompasses diversification, innovation, and a commitment to environmental and social sustainability. By adopting such a business model, vertical farming ventures can position themselves for long-term success and profitability in a rapidly evolving industry.

Scientific Approach

Let's get scientific! Research and development are like the superheroes of vertical farming, always on the lookout for new technologies and practices that can supercharge the performance of our farms. They're on a mission to save energy, finding ways to reduce those pesky power bills that come with maintaining controlled environments. Think advanced lighting systems that use less energy but still give our plants the perfect ambiance to grow. And let's not forget about our HVAC systems, the masters of temperature and humidity regulation. With their help, we can keep things cool and cozy while using less energy. It's like having a team of geniuses working behind the scenes to make our farms more efficient than ever!

Let's talk about the money, honey! Cost-effectiveness is another area where vertical farming can really show off its savvy side. Through research and development, we can uncover groundbreaking solutions to slash operational costs and boost profitability. Picture this: automated systems that handle everything from planting to harvesting to maintenance. Not only does automation save time and labor, but it also eliminates pesky human errors, resulting in bigger yields and better efficiency. It's like having a team of superheroes working behind the scenes to make our farms lean, mean, and money-making machines!

But wait, there's more! Research and development don't stop there - they can also tackle the pesky challenges that vertical farming faces. We're talking about finding sustainable ways to keep those pests at bay, preventing diseases from ruining our crops, and managing nutrients like a pro. By discovering eco-friendly alternatives to traditional pesticides and fertilizers, vertical farming can minimize its impact on the environment while ensuring that our crops are safe and healthy. And that's not all - a science-driven approach can also foster collaboration and knowledge sharing within the vertical farming industry.

By bringing together research institutions, vertical farming ventures, and experts, we can share valuable insights and best practices. This collaboration can lead to breakthroughs in everything from plant genetics and breeding to data analysis and optimization. It's like a superhero team saving the day for vertical farming!

Values Beyond Cash Flow

Vertical farming ventures are adopting eco-friendly growing methods, such as using organic nutrients and reducing pesticide usage. They are also implementing innovative practices like water recycling and energy-efficient systems to minimize waste and resource consumption. By doing so, they are not only ensuring the long-term viability of their operations but also contributing to the overall well-being of the planet.

Community engagement is another key aspect for vertical farming ventures. They are actively collaborating with local communities to create jobs and provide fresh, locally grown produce. By establishing partnerships with schools and community organizations, they are promoting healthy eating habits and educating the public about the benefits of sustainable agriculture. Through workshops and events, they are empowering individuals to grow their own food and become more self-sufficient.

Education is also a priority for vertical farming ventures. They are investing in research and development to improve crop yields and quality. By sharing their knowledge and insights with other farmers and researchers, they are advancing the field of vertical farming as a whole. They are also partnering with universities and research institutions to support scientific studies and develop new technologies that can benefit the entire industry.


The vertical farming industry is currently facing numerous challenges, including financial instability and high operational costs. The recent bankruptcies and financial struggles of key players like Infarm, Agricool, and Kalera highlight the complexity and volatility of this sector. However, it is important to note that these challenges can be overcome. To ensure long-term sustainability, a comprehensive approach is needed that goes beyond relying solely on technological advancements. The success of the industry depends on a well-balanced team consisting of skilled growers, energy specialists, data analysts, and effective leaders. With such a team in place, the industry can effectively navigate the complexities of energy management, crop biology, and market dynamics.

The industry is catching on to the importance of a kick-ass sustainable business model that embraces diversification, innovation, and a badass commitment to environmental and social responsibility. By honing in on niche markets and customization, we can supercharge profitability and resilience. And let's not forget about the power of research and development! They're like the superheroes of vertical farming, driving innovations that make it leaner, greener, and more cost-effective. Time to save the day, one crop at a time!

And last but definitely not least, the industry is stepping up its game to embrace values that go beyond just making money. Community engagement and education have become essential not only from an ethical standpoint but also as strategic moves to attract customers in an increasingly eco-conscious market. So, to sum it all up, vertical farming is not a quick fix, but a long-term commitment that requires a well-rounded approach, blending technology, human expertise, and ethical practices to achieve sustainable success.


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This article is intended for informational purposes and should not be considered as investment advice. Always conduct your own research before making any investment decisions.

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