Opportunities and Challenges in Sustainability of Vertical Farming: A Review

Fatemeh Kalantari 1 , Osman Mohd Tahir 1 , Raheleh Akbari Joni 1  and Ezaz Fatemi 1
  • 1 Faculty of Design and Architecture, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


As the world population continues to grow at a rapid rate, accompanied by a substantial growth in food demand which is expected to transpire in the next 50 years, 80 % of the population will be living in urban areas. In order to feed this growing population, there is a need for sustainable urban food. Producing sustainable urban food requires considering all factors of sustainability collectively including, environmental, social and economic advancement. A new method that has been proposed to address the issue of sustainability and to meet the growing food demand is, designing and implementing vertical farms. Vertical farming is a concept that involves cultivating plants with livestock on vertically inclined surfaces such as in skyscrapers in urban areas, where there is a lack of available land and space. However, there is a paucity of information and a limited number of published critical reviews on Vertical farming in urban areas. This study, in an attempt to review the major opportunities and challenges of Vertical Farming, uses the framework of sustainability to examine the role of it in prospective food provision in cities. This study is a critical review of 60 documents from related published papers from relevant journals and scientific online databases. Vertical Farming can be potentially beneficial in increasing food production, maintaining high quality and safety and contributing to sustainable urban farming. Well-known advantages of growing food within the urban territory can be beneficial environmentally, socially and economically. Vertical farms can also provide solutions for increasing food security worldwide.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • Abel, C. (2010). The vertical garden city: towards a new urban topology. CTBUH Journal, (2), 20–30. Retrieved September 5, 2010, from http://www.et2050.eu/et2050_library/docs/tech/land_uses/Vertical_garden.pdf

  • Afrin, S. (2009). Green Skyscraper : Integration of Plants into Skyscrapers. (Master’s Thesis).Kungliga Tekniska högskolan (KTH), Stockholm. Retrieved January 15, 2009 from www.infra.kth.se/sb/sp

  • Ahlström, L., & Zahra, M. (2011). Integrating a Greenhouse in an Urban Area. (Unpublished Master’s Thesis).Chalmers University of Technology,Göteborg, Sweden.

  • Al-Chalabi, M. (2015). Vertical farming: Skyscraper sustainability? Sustainable Cities and Society, 18, 74–77. Retrieved February 10, 2015 from http://doi.org/10.1016/j.scs.2015.06.003

  • Albajes, R., Cantero-Martínez, C., Capell, T., Christou, P., Farre, A., Galceran, J., Voltas, J. (2013). Building bridges: an integrated strategy for sustainable food production throughout the value chain. Molecular Breeding, 32(4), 743–770. Retrieved June 15, 2013 from http://doi.org/10.1007/s11032-013-9915-z

  • Ankri, D. S. (2010). Urban Kibbutz: Integrating Vertical Farming and Collective Living in Jerusalem, Israel. (Master’s Thesis).Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database. (UMI No.1482437). Retrieved July 2, 2010 from http://search.proquest.com/docview/762216845?accountid=10906%5Cnhttp://zsfx.lib.iastate.edu:3410/sfxlcl41?url_ver=Z39.88-2004&rft_val_fmt=info:ofi/fmt:kev:mtx:dissertation&genre=dissertations+%26+theses&sid=ProQ:ProQuest+Dissertations+%26+Theses+Global&at

  • Banerjee, C., & Adenaeuer, L. (2014). Up, Up and Away! The Economics of Vertical Farming. Journal of Agricultural Studies, 2(1), 40. Retrieved January 15, 2014 from http://doi.org/10.5296/jas.v2i1.4526

  • Besthorn, F. H. (2013). Vertical Farming: Social Work and Sustainable Urban Agriculture in an Age of Global Food Crises. Australian Social Work, 66(2), 187–203. Retrieved December 5, 2013 from http://doi.org/10.1080/0312407X.2012.716448

  • Bohn, K., & Viljoen, A. (2011). The edible city: envisioning the Continuous Productive Urban Landscape (CPUL). Field Journal, 4(1), 149–161. Retrieved June 12, 2011 from http://www.field-journal.org/index.php?page=issue-4

  • Brundtland, G. H. (1985). World commission on environment and development. Environmental Policy and Law, 14(1), 26–30.

  • Cicekli, M., & Barlas, N. T. (2014). Transformation of today greenhouses into high technology vertical farming systems for metropolitan regions. Journal of Environmental Protection and Ecology, 15(4), 1779–1785.

  • Despommier, D. (2009). The rise of vertical farms. Scientific American, 301(5), 80–87.

  • Despommier, D. (2010). The vertical farm: feeding the world in the 21st century. Macmillan.

  • Despommier, D. (2011). The vertical farm: controlled environment agriculture carried out in tall buildings would create greater food safety and security for large urban populations. Journal Für Verbraucherschutz Und Lebensmittelsicherheit, 6(2), 233–236. Retrieved March 15, 2011 from http://doi.org/10.1007/s00003-010-0654-3

  • Despommier, D. (2013). Farming up the city: The rise of urban vertical farms. Trends in Biotechnology, 31(7), 388–389. Retrieved December 7, 2013 from http://doi.org/10.1016/j.tibtech.2013.03.008

  • Despommier, D. (2014). Encyclopedia of Food and Agricultural Ethics (Vertical Farms in Horticulture). (P. B. Thompson & D. M. Kaplan, Eds.) Encyclopedia of Food and Agricultural Ethics. Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands. Retrieved July 15, 2014 from http://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-0929-4

  • Dubbeling, M. (2011). Integrating urban agriculture in the urban landscape. Urban Agriculture Magazine, (25), 43–46. Retrieved September 4, 2011 from www.ruaf.org

  • Eigenbrod, C., & Gruda, N. (2015). Urban vegetable for food security in cities. A review. Agronomy for Sustainable Development, 35(2), 483–498. Retrieved January 15, 2015 from http://doi.org/10.1007/s13593-014-0273-y

  • Ellingsen, E., & Despommier, D. (2008). The Vertical Farm - The origin of a 21st century Architectural Typology. CTBUH Journal, (3), 26–34. Retrieved June 10, 2008 from http://global.ctbuh.org/resources/papers/download/449-the-vertical-farm-the-origin-of-a-21st-century-architectural-typology.pdf

  • Ellis, J. (2012). Agricultural Transparency: Reconnecting Urban Centres With Food Production. (Unpublished Master’s Thesis).Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia.

  • Germer, J., Sauerborn, J., Asch, F., de Boer, J., Schreiber, J., Weber, G., & Müller, J. (2011). Skyfarming an ecological innovation to enhance global food security. Journal Für Verbraucherschutz Und Lebensmittelsicherheit, 6(2), 237–251. Retrieved April 18, 2011 from http://doi.org/10.1007/s00003-011-0691-6

  • Glaser, J. A. (2012). Green chemistry with nanocatalysts. Clean Technologies and Environmental Policy, 14(4), 513–520. Retrieved April 15, 2012 from http://doi.org/10.1007/s10098-012-0507-0

  • Graff, G. (2009). A greener revolution: An argument for vertical farming. Plan Canada, 49(2), 49–51.

  • Hui, S. C. M. (2011). Green roof urban farming for buildings in high-density urban cities. In World Green Roof Conference (pp. 1–9). Retrieved December 2, 2011 from http://www.mech.hku.hk/bse/greenroof/110318_WGRC2011_Hainan_SamHui_fullpaper.pdf

  • Islam, R., & Siwar, C. (2012). The analysis of urban agriculture development in Malaysia. Advances in Environmental Biology, 6(3), 1068–1078.

  • Kalantari, F., Mohd Tahir, O., Golkar, N., & Ismail, N. A. (2015). Socio-Cultural Development of Tajan Riverfront, Sari, Iran. Advances in Environmental Biology, 9(27), 386–392.

  • Kalantari, F., Mohd Tahir, O., Golkar, N., & Kalantari, S. (2015). Restoration of Tajan River through ecological design approach. ALAM CIPTA, International Journal on Sustainable Tropical Design Research & Practice, 8(spec. 1), 52–59. Retrieved April 2, 2015 from http://psasir.upm.edu.my/42296/

  • Kaplan, R. (1993). The role of nature in the Context of the workplace. Landscape and Urban Planning, 26(1), 193–201. Retrieved September 16, 1993 from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=psyh&AN=1985-16132-001&site=eds-live&scope=site

  • Kim, H.-G., Park, D.-H., Chowdhury, O. R., Shin, C.-S., Cho, Y.-Y., & Park, J.-W. (2014). Location-Based Intelligent Robot Management Service Model Using RGPSi with AoA for Vertical Farm. In Lecture Notes in Electrical Engineering (Vol. 279, pp. 309–314). Retrieved January 15, 2014 from http://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-41674-3_44

  • La Rosa, D., Barbarossa, L., Privitera, R., & Martinico, F. (2014). Agriculture and the city: A method for sustainable planning of new forms of agriculture in urban contexts. Land Use Policy, 41, 290–303. Retrieved March 15, 2014 from http://doi.org/10.1016/j.landusepol.2014.06.014

  • Lam, S. O. (2007). Urban Agriculture in Kingston : Present and Future Potential for Re-Localization and Sustainability. (Unpublished Master’s Thesis).Queen’s University,Ontario,Canada.

  • Liu, X. (2014). Design of a Modified Shipping Container as Modular Unit for the Minimally Structured & Modular Vertical Farm (MSM-VF). (Master’s Thesis).Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database. (UMI No.1573000).

  • Miller, A. (2011). Scaling Up or Selling Out? A Critical Appraisal of Current Development in Vertical Farming. (Unpublished Master’s Thesis).Carleton University, ottawa, ontario,Canada.

  • Nochian, A., Mohd Tahir, O., Maulan, S., & Rakhshandehroo, M. (2015). A comprehensive public open space categorization using classification system for sustainable development of public open spaces. ALAM CIPTA, International Journal on Sustainable Tropical Design Research & Practice, 8(spec. 1), 29–40.

  • Perez, V. M. (2014). Study of The Sustainability Issue of Food Production Using Vertical Farm Methods in An Urban Environment Within The State of Indiana. (Master’s Thesis).Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database. (UMI No.1565090).

  • Platt, P. (2007). Vertical Farming: An Interview with Dickson Despommier. Gastronomica, 7(2), 80–87. Retrieved March 15, 2007 from http://doi.org/10.1525/gfc.2007.7.3.80

  • Safikhani, T., Abdullah, A. M., Ossen, D. R., & Baharvand, M. (2014). A review of energy characteristic of vertical greenery systems. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 40, 450–462. Retrieved August 25, 2014 from http://doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2014.07.166

  • Sauerborn, J. (2011). Skyfarming: an alternative to horizontal croplands. Resource: Engineering & Technology for a Sustainable World, 18(1), 19. Retrieved December 15, 2011 from http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-247226253.html

  • Säynäjoki, E., Heinonen, J., & Junnila, S. (2013). Urban Density and Local Sustainability – A Case Study in Finland. In 189TH Annual Pacific-RIM Real Estate Society Conference Melbourne Australia (pp. 13–16).

  • Sivamani, S., Bae, N.-J., Shin, C.-S., Park, J.-W., & Cho, Y.-Y. (2014). An OWL-Based Ontology Model for Intelligent Service in Vertical Farm. In Lecture Notes in Electrical Engineering (Vol. 279, pp. 327–332). Retrieved January 5, 2014 from http://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-41674-3_47

  • Sivamani, S., Bae, N., & Cho, Y. (2013). A Smart Service Model Based on Ubiquitous Sensor Networks Using Vertical Farm Ontology. International Journal of Distributed Sensor Networks, 9(12), 161495. Retrieved April 20, 2013 from http://doi.org/10.1155/2013/161495

  • Sivamani, S., Kwak, K., & Cho, Y. (2014). A Rule Based Event-Driven Control Service for Vertical Farm System. In J. J. Park, I. Stojmenovic, M. Choi, & F. Xhafa (Eds.), In Future Information Technology (Vol. 276, pp. 915–920). Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer Berlin Heidelberg. Retrieved September 15, 2014 from http://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-55038-6_138

  • Specht, K., Siebert, R., Hartmann, I., Freisinger, U. B., Sawicka, M., Werner, A., Dierich, A. (2014). Urban agriculture of the future: an overview of sustainability aspects of food production in and on buildings. Agriculture and Human Values, 31(1), 33–51. Retrieved January 15, 2014 from http://doi.org/10.1007/s10460-013-9448-4

  • Tan, Z., Lau, K. K.-L., & Ng, E. (2015). Urban tree design approaches for mitigating daytime urban heat island effects in a high-density urban environment. Energy and Buildings. Retrieved February 8, 2015 from http://doi.org/10.1016/j.enbuild.2015.06.031

  • Thomaier, S., Specht, K., Henckel, D., Dierich, A., Siebert, R., Freisinger, U. B., & Sawicka, M. (2015). Farming in and on urban buildings: Present practice and specific novelties of Zero-Acreage Farming (ZFarming). Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, 30(1), 43–54. Retrieved April 21, 2015 from http://doi.org/10.1017/S1742170514000143

  • Vogel, G. (2008). Upending the traditional farm. Science, 319(5864), 752–753. Retrieved August 3, 2008 from http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/doi/10.1126/science.319.5864.753

  • Voss, P. M. (2013). Vertical Farming: An agricultural revolution on the rise. Halmstad, 1–21.

  • Wagner, C. G. (2010). Vertical Farming: An Idea Whose Time Has Come Back. Futurist, 44(2), 68–69. Retrieved October 30, 2010 from http://content.ebscohost.com/ContentServer.asp?T=P&P=AN&K=47784788&S=R&D=a9h&EbscoContent=dGJyMNLr40SeprM4xNvgOLCmr0uep7FSsKu4TLGWxWXS&ContentCustomer=dGJyMPGvrki3rK5PuePfgeyx44Dt6fIA%5Cnhttps//ezproxy.uttyler.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/lo


Journal + Issues