Underground farms. Agricultural printing. Vertical farms. Hydroponics. These aren't just trendy farming practices but in fact the future of food.
As the world population climbs towards 9 billion, food scarcity is becoming a global concern. But growing food takes its toll on the environment. For starters there's pollution, soil deterioration and carbon emissions to worry about. To combat these and other maladies researchers are turning to sustainable farming practices as the answer.
Underground farming is the latest sustainable practice reshaping agriculture as we know it. Recently, pioneer farmers in London announced plans to grow produce underground in World War II air raid shelters. This agricultural feat is possible through LED technology and the use of hydroponics, a method of growing plants using a mineral solution.
Known as Growing Underground, the farm is located 12 stories below London's busy streets, just a mile from the Covent Garden market. Spearheaded by a company called Zero Carbon Food, the farm currently produces a range of microgreens like mini arugula, pea shoots and herbs that are grown year round in a pesticide-free environment.
Aside from garnering attention for its unique location, the carbon-neutral farm has been generating a buzz for its sustainable practices. The farm consumes 70 percent less water than conventional farming. Another bonus? Local chefs can get freshly plucked leaves in less than four hours.
Although the farm is up and running, its co-founders cofounded Richard Ballard and Steven Dring, are seeking funding to expand their operations. Here's their CrowdCube pitch:
Chicago is another city at the forefront of sustainable farming. In 2012, the Windy City announced plans to convert an old industrial building into a zero-waste vertical farm and food production facility. What's unique about this farm is that every product produced will help 'feed' another product in the making.
Called The Plant, the farm is already producing mushrooms, salad greens, bread and kombucha - a sweetened and fermented tea. By 2016, the finished project will feature a brewery, a kombucha tea factory, a tilapia fish farm, a commercial kitchen and research and educational space. Once up and running, The Plant will provide 125 green jobs.
Over in Germany, researchers have been experimenting with agricultural printing, a process that would allow the digitally 'print' farmland. Essentially, by using GPS coordinates a tractor could plow and plant seeds in certain patterns - allowing compatible plants to be planted next to each other, which in turn increases biodiversity.
While it's in its initial stages, agricultural printing is aimed at increasing efficiency while making biogas farms less disruptive to the environment. Here's how it works: