A National Security Perspective on Vertical Farming: Reducing Supply Chain Vulnerabilities

By Robbin Laird

Since the very earliest wars, battlefield commanders have known that a successful strategy is to use food as a weapon.

Vertical farming is a bold approach that will become a critical national asset — and will require protection.

Vertical farming — growing multiple crops in specially designed tall buildings in urban and suburban areas — is taking international farming into the 21st century. As urbanization accelerates in the 21st century and as many of the world’s urban areas are by seas, ensuring the security of these areas — inclusive of provision of basic quality of life, such as food — is a key requirement and challenge.

When nations go to war, history has shown that control of sea lines of communication is an essential element of strategic war planning. Consequently, the most visible aspects of a nation flexing its muscle are airplanes and ships rather than other dimensions of national security such as the industrial heartland and the great agricultural farms.

However, history shows that the free movement of all logistics, including agriculture products, during times of crisis and actual war can be the key to eventual victory.

With vertical farming, the output of food is significantly larger than horizontal farm land. So fully understanding the need to militarily protect vertical farms as a critical national asset, greater output means much greater sustained deterrence.

An additional aspect of modern continental war is that flat or slightly rolling farmland is often a perfect battlefield for mechanized war. Tank engagements with infantry and combined arms artillery fires are very destructive of harvests. That is the tragedy of Poland’s and Ukraine’s topography.

This is where 21st century vertical farming can make a major difference.

Vertical framing directly supports defense and security by reducing stress on transportation and delivery systems.

And one of the most important aspects of this infrastructure is the ability to provide for self-sufficiency without the need to rely on global supply chains and long-distance shipping. By removing chokepoints for provision of basic sustainment of a nation, national security is enhanced and defense demands are reduced.

And for a country like the United States, which is a large federal system with several key urban areas defining its global reach, enhanced autonomy within those urban areas is paramount. Vertical farming provides both a self-sustaining flexible farming infrastructure for urban populations and increased redundancy to support operations from a variety of points of operation for U.S. forces.

Global military installations with self-sustaining vertical farms might be a way for future mitigation of the need for global transportation of agriculture products in a crisis.

Put in other words, the success of the vision of vertical farming — not unlike Skyscraper Farm — is part of a 21st century renaissance in reshaping the infrastructure for the security of the nation. And when that vision is implemented in the urban areas of our partners and allies, an overall enhancement in infrastructure security is clearly on the way.

Moreover, by introducing vertical farming in dense and packed urban areas in Third World nations, poverty could be reduced as well the demand side on countries like the United States that are often required to provide global assistance.

In short, agility in a much more efficient supply coupled with a commiserate reduced demand on the transportation system are major enhancements to the theory and practice of combat logistical planning to the national security system — these are part of the benefits that can be delivered by vertical farming.

This article first appeared in The Washington Times.

After publication in The Washington Times an article in Horticulture Week published on October 18, 2018, focused on the opportunities which new research facilities in the UK provided to develop a way ahead.

What do Stockbridge’s New Research Facilities Offer to Industry?

By Gavin McEwan

Two new facilities opened this week at Stockbridge Technology Centre (STC) in North Yorkshire, intended to point the way ahead for more productive and sustainable protected crop growing.

The Vertical Farming Development Centre will help growers and investors determine how different technologies impact the economics of controlled environment growing. Providing additional and complementary capabilities to STC’s existing LED4CROPS facility, it consists of two identical growth rooms, each containing 140sq m of LED-lit cropping area over five tiers, with full control over temperature, relative humidity and CO2, as well as state-of-the-art propagation and germination rooms. Crops will be grown using a fully recirculating hydroponics system, with all inputs and outputs monitored.

“By having two identical compartments, we are able to compare the impact of different climate control strategies on energy efficiency and crop yields, leading to improved energy efficiency, sustainability, yields and economics,” according to a statement from funder the Crop Health & Protection (CHAP) agri-tech centre (see box).

This will help give entrepreneurs, growers and investors a greater insight into the optimisation of growth parameters, so reducing the risks associated with this emerging technology before they break ground on their own vertical farming projects, it adds.

As well as yield, the technology also enables nutrient value and even visual appeal to be optimised, by incorporating the latest insights into how different light recipes at different growth stages, combined with other growth variables, can be used to guide the crop’s development.

Step into the future

“We have the potential to grow more produce at an industrial scale within our cities and the focus of this new facility is to support the growers who are taking this bold step into the future of farming,” says STC head of novel growing systems Dr Rhydian Beynon-Davies.

“By developing controlled environment grow systems integrated with LED lighting, we can demonstrate how, through technology, urban farming can improve the supply and nutritional value of food in a way that is commercially viable.”

Built by systems integrator GrowStack working with TCE Electrical, it incorporates 780m of Current by GE’s Arize high-efficiency horticultural LED units, designed for easy plug-and-play installation and fully sealed for simple cleaning — essential in a high-care environment that allows a clean crop to be grown potentially without the need for washing.

GE horticulture business development manager Malcolm Yare says: “Light is critical to the success of any crop and by focusing on combining the most effective wavelengths with the optimal environmental conditions we can help growers outpace traditional methods by creating more farmable space in industrial and urban areas, increasing global harvests in a way that is both commercially and environmentally sustainable.”

The investment comes less than two months after the opening of another major vertical growing demonstration facility near Dundee, run by Intelligent Growth Solutions and intended as a prototype from which customers can then select proven third-party modular components to create their own commercial facilities at home or abroad.

A report published last year by US-based Global Market Insights predicted that the vertical farming industry will grow in turnover from $2.5bn in 2017 to $13.9bn in 2024 — a more than fivefold increase. Last week, senior military and security analyst Dr Robbin Laird made the case in the Washington Times for vertical farming infrastructure’s capacity to enhance national security by providing “self-sufficiency without the need to rely on global supply chains and long-distance shipping”.

He also suggests: “Global military installations with self-sustaining vertical farms might be a way for future mitigation of the need for global transportation of agriculture products.”

For the full article, see the following:


The featured graphic was taken from this source: