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:

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

TikTok about '80s childhood is a total Gen X flashback.

As a Gen X parent, it's weird to try to describe my childhood to my kids. We're the generation that didn't grow up with the internet or cell phones, yet are raising kids who have never known a world without them. That difference alone is enough to make our 1980s childhoods feel like a completely different planet, but there are other differences too that often get overlooked.

How do you explain the transition from the brown and orange aesthetic of the '70s to the dusty rose and forest green carpeting of the '80s if you didn't experience it? When I tell my kids there were smoking sections in restaurants and airplanes and ashtrays everywhere, they look horrified (and rightfully so—what were we thinking?!). The fact that we went places with our friends with no quick way to get ahold of our parents? Unbelievable.

One day I described the process of listening to the radio, waiting for my favorite song to come on so I could record it on my tape recorder, and how mad I would get when the deejay talked through the intro of the song until the lyrics started. My Spotify-spoiled kids didn't even understand half of the words I said.

And '80s hair? With the feathered bangs and the terrible perms and the crunchy hair spray? What, why and how?

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