For as long as most people can remember, horizontal farming has been the only way to go.

But now, farmers are discovering that while horizontal fields of crops are beautiful, they might not be the best use of space.

As roots spread out across the ground, they leave a lot of unused real estate overhead. So what's stopping us from stacking our crops like densely-packed cities? Well, sunlight, for one. And gravity. Soil too.


But once that's all figured out? Perpendicular planting could be a much more efficient way to grow food.

What does vertical farming look like? Here are nine farms that are going above and beyond with their indoor produce systems:

Photo via Kirsten Dirksen/YouTube.

1. VertiCrop

VertiCrop was the first big company to kick off the vertical urban farming trend, stacking shelves upon shelves of delicious greens that could produce up to 20 times the crop yield with only about 8% of the water of a comparable horizontal garden setup. Time magazine even named it as one of the world's greatest inventions in 2009.

Though the company had some financial trouble, they definitely set a high bar for the power of this kind of sustainable farming.

Photo by Valcenteu/Wikimedia Commons.

2. Growing Power Aquaponic System

This aquaponic system takes advantage of the existing symbiotic relationship between plants and animals.

The pump pulls water from a five-foot-deep pool to feed multiple layers of plants — in this case, watercress and tomatoes — then drips back down into the pool again, where the fresh oxygen helps to feed the tilapia in the tank below. It's like a little self-contained and portable ecosystem! (Also, the fish poo works as fertilizer.)

Photo by Ryan Griffis/Flickr.

3. Wigan UTC Hydroponic Vertical Farm

This is believed to be the world's first educational vertical farm, where curious students can study, train, and experiment in farming progress.

At Wigan, a British university, the setup boasts a rotating soilless conveyor belt system, temperature and lighting controls, and even a state-of-the-art kitchen where students can actually start to develop recipes for the future (which may or may not include the delicious aquaponic fish they're raising as well — mmmm, space salmon).

Photo via Wellcome Trust/YouTube.

4. DIY Windowfarms

These vertical windowfarms are catching on in major cities where everything is already stacked up tall and tight — 'cause hey, if it works for people in a city, why can't it work for plants? There are plenty of online communities offering tips, tricks, and instructions, but the basic idea is that you can set up rows of recyclable drip-water systems in the comfort of your own home. All you need is a window, some old plastic bottles, and string.

Photo by SparkCBC/Flickr.

5. The Land at Epcot Center

That's right, even the mouse himself is getting in on the vertical farming action. And they're actually doing lots of cool research and experiments too! Plus, sometimes they make hydroponic mouse-shaped pumpkins.

Photo by Paul Goings/Flickr.

6. Bright AgroTech Zip Farm

These innovators found a cool new way to make their vertical farming even more vertical. They're not just stacking horizontal flowerbeds upright: They use zip ties to create vertical planes that grow crops outward.

Photo via Bright AgroTech/YouTube.

7. Green Sense Farms

Whoa, is that pink?! Green Sense Farms uses specially-made red and blue diodes to amplify the actual light rays that help plants grow. 'Cause who needs a full spectrum of colors when two of them can do the job even better?

Photo via The Good Stuff/YouTube.

8. Pasona Group Urban Farm

While vertical farms are great for making optimal use of space, what do you do in a place as densely-packed as Tokyo, where there's no room to build from the ground up? Simple: Start growing food in office buildings, like the folks at Kono Designs have done.

Not only does it produce some delicious crops, but employees are generally happier with the fresh oxygen in the air and the affective lighting. It's like being outdoors, but in an office!

Photo via Kirsten Dirksen/YouTube.

9. AeroFarms

Last but not least, built inside a former laser tag arena just outside New York City, AeroFarms is known as the planet's largest indoor vertical farm to date, with the ability to grow 75 times more crops per square foot while using 95% less water.

Their system relies on an aeroponic mist instead of standard soil and uses concentrated LED lights, and — oh yeah — it's also being used to provide affordable food to underserved communities. Win.

Rendering from AeroFarms. Used with permission.

Vertical farming doesn't just look cool — it's solving some serious planetary problems, and not a moment too soon.

This kind of urban agriculture is innovative and beautiful, which is great. But it's also a major step forward in addressing our impending food and population crises.

Between climate change and our rapidly increasing influx, some estimates suggest farmers will need to nearly double their crop output by 2050 if our civilization expects to survive — all while more than a quarter of our available farmland is already falling apart.

And while that sounds like a scary situation, these vertical farms are making sure we move upward and onward, so these kinds of problems can go right over our heads.

Learn more about the future of our plants and our planet in the video below:

Photo by Picsea on Unsplash
True

It is said that once you've seen something, you can't unsee it. This is exactly what is happening in America right now. We have collectively watched the pot of racial tension boil over after years of looking the other way, insisting that hot water doesn't exist, pretending not to notice the smoke billowing out from every direction.

Ignoring a problem doesn't make it go away—it prolongs resolution. There's a whole lot of harm to be remedied and damage to be repaired as a result of racial injustice, and it's up to all of us to figure out how to do that. Parents, in particular, are recognizing the importance of raising anti-racist children; if we are unable to completely eradicate racism, maybe the next generation will.

How can parents ensure that the next generation will actively refuse to perpetuate systems and behaviors embedded in racism? The most obvious answer is to model it. Take for example, professional tennis player Serena Williams and her husband, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.

Keep Reading Show less

I'll say this up front so that there's zero confusion: Child sex trafficking is real, it's heinous, and it's been going on for a long time. Everyone who buys or sells a child or partakes in harming a child in any way should be prosecuted and punished to the full extent of the law. There is no place in civil society for people who sexually abuse children or who profit off of the abuse of children. Full stop. No question.

But we have careened into some twisted waters in our social discourse around child sex trafficking, to the point where the real issue of is being conflated with outrageous conspiracy theories that deflect from the real work being done to save children, put innocent people in harm's way, and interfere with the integrity of our elections.

I wrote about this issue recently and was met with accusations of being paid off by powerful pedophiles (ugh, seriously?), a flood of people saying "No, you're wrong!" while offering zero evidence, and a bunch of YouTube and Facebook videos that people seem to think are credible sources. I got fake screenshots of supposed Wikileaks emails that aren't actually on Wikileaks when you search for them. I got people who only listen to fringe outlets that have no oversight or accountability claiming that my well-cited, real news sources were a part of the whole conspiracy. All of that stuff I could ignore. Whackadoodles are gonna whackadoodle no matter how many facts you throw at them.

But I also got a few people sharing a list of nearly 100 politicians and other powerful people who have been convicted of child sex crimes. That was different, because it was factual.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Picsea on Unsplash
True

It is said that once you've seen something, you can't unsee it. This is exactly what is happening in America right now. We have collectively watched the pot of racial tension boil over after years of looking the other way, insisting that hot water doesn't exist, pretending not to notice the smoke billowing out from every direction.

Ignoring a problem doesn't make it go away—it prolongs resolution. There's a whole lot of harm to be remedied and damage to be repaired as a result of racial injustice, and it's up to all of us to figure out how to do that. Parents, in particular, are recognizing the importance of raising anti-racist children; if we are unable to completely eradicate racism, maybe the next generation will.

How can parents ensure that the next generation will actively refuse to perpetuate systems and behaviors embedded in racism? The most obvious answer is to model it. Take for example, professional tennis player Serena Williams and her husband, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Mahir Uysal on Unsplash

Two years ago, I got off the phone after an interview and cried my eyes out. I'd just spent an hour talking to Tim Ballard, the founder of Operation Underground Railroad, an organization that helps fight child sex trafficking, and I just couldn't take it.

Ballard told me about how the training to go undercover as a child predator nearly broke him. He told me an eerie story of a trafficker who could totally compartmentalize, showing Ballard photos of kids he had for sale, then switching gears to proudly show him a photo of his own daughter on her bicycle, just as any parent would. He told me about how lucrative child trafficking is—how a child can bring in three or four times as much as a female prostitute—and how Americans are the industry's biggest consumers.

Keep Reading Show less

Forrest Galante will never forget the first time he ever saw a shark in person. "I was 7 or 8 years old and was snorkeling with my grandfather," the outdoor adventure TV personality told Upworthy. "We were in Mozambique where I grew up and I was holding my grandfather's hand underwater as he guided me. It was a small reef shark. What seemed like this huge animal appeared out of nowhere, racing through the darkness and suddenly I was looking into its beautiful eyes. I was in awe but I also think I grabbed my granddad's hand just a little bit tighter."

25 years later, Galante, is a world-renowned conversation activist who hosts the Extinct or Alive program on Animal Planet. He has interacted with some of the planet's most intriguing and intimidating creatures but it's hard to think of a living creature that has more powerfully captured our collective imagination than sharks.

This year, Galante is hosting his schedule special as part of the legendary Shark Week series. In tonight's episode, Galante travels to the northeast coast of South Africa, the "Land of the Lost Sharks," where he looks to find the Pondicherry, a species of shark believed to have gone extinct decades ago.


Keep Reading Show less