Research Blog: Professor Chungui Lu on vertical farming and the urgency of innovative sustainable food production

We asked Professor of Sustainable Agriculture Chungui Lu, of our School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Studies, about the importance of research into Vertical Farming

Chungui Lu in a vertical 'container farm'

According to the World Health Organisation, the world’s population will expand to 9.7 billion by 2050 and 70% of people will reside in urban megacities. Traditional agricultural models of food production, with inefficient use of fertilisers damaging potable water resources and large land requirements, will not be capable of meeting increased food demands.

Increased climate variability and more complex, frequent and intense climate extremes reduce crop yields and threaten to reverse gains made in ending hunger and malnutrition. Shortfalls in food production are significantly worse in countries where the agriculture systems are highly sensitive to rainfall, temperature and severe drought, and are where the livelihoods of a high proportion of the population depends on agriculture.

A potential solution to these issues is vertical farming. There is an urgent need to identify and develop innovative methods for sustainable food production. Brexit will bring significant strategic risk and cost. A major restructuring of UK agriculture will be needed to maintain food security, due to 68% of fruits and vegetables in the UK coming from EU countries. Vertical farming is a promising way that could offer sustainable and innovative solutions for improving food security.

Vertical farming is capable of providing from fifty to a hundred times the yield of traditional farming methods, improving food security through ‘Smart’ (Internet of Things enabled), ‘Green’ (energy and resource sustainable) and ‘Growth’ (urban systems for plants and crops). At NTU, Sustainable Futures is one of our five Strategic Research Themes, within which we are at the forefront of research into vertical farming.

Our research in this area explores the opportunities posed by developments in Smart Green Growth for sustainable agriculture and global food security, bringing together scientists, engineers, industrialists, investors and policymakers to tackle the challenges through research and technology solutions. We are exploring how the UK can become a global vertical farming hub and a European leader for the development of Smart Green Growth for improving Global Food Security.

Professor Chungui Lu

Find out more about our Sustainable Futures research.

Research Blog: Professor Chungui Lu on vertical farming and the urgency of innovative sustainable food production

Published on 21 November 2019
  • Category: Research; School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences

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