See 9 stunning vertical farms that could solve the planet's food crisis.

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:

Heroes

Andy Grammer, the pop singer and songwriter behind feel-good tunes like "Keep Your Head Up," "Back Home," and "Don't Give Up on Me," has a new album out—and it is seriously fabulous. Titled simply "Naive," Grammer says it's "all about how seeing the good in todays world can feel like a rebellious act."

"I wrote this album for the light bringers," Grammer shared on Facebook. "The people who choose to see the good even in the overwhelming chaos of the bad. The smilers who fight brick by brick to build an authentic smile everyday, even when it seems like an impossible thing to do. For those who have been marginalized as 'sweet' or 'cute' or 'less powerful' for being overly positive. To me optimism is a war to be fought, possibly the most important one. If I am speaking to you and you are relating to it then know I made this album for you. You are my tribe. I love you and I hope it serves you. Don't let the world turn down your shine, we all so badly need it."

Reading that, it's easy to think maybe he really is naive, but Grammer's positivity isn't due to nothing difficult ever happening in his life. His mom, Kathy, died of breast cancer when Grammer was 25. He and his mother were very close, and her life and death had a huge impact on him.

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Culture
via Stratford Festival / Twitter

Service dogs are invaluable to their owners because they are able to help in so many different ways.

They're trained to retrieve dropped Items, open and close doors, help their owners remove their clothes, transport medications, navigate busy areas such as airports, provide visual assistance, and even give psychological help.

The service dog trainers at K-9 Country Inn Working Service Dogs in Canada want those who require service dogs to live the fullest life possible, so they're training dogs on how to attend a theatrical performance.

The adorable photos of the dogs made their way to social media where they quickly went viral.

On August 15, a dozen dogs from Golden Retrievers to poodles, were treated to a performance of "Billy Elliott" at the Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada. This was a special "relaxed performance" featuring quieter sound effects and lighting, designed for those with sensory issues.

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"It's important to prepare the dogs for any activity the handler may like to attend," Laura Mackenzie, owner and head trainer at K-9 Country Inn Working Service Dogs, told CBC.

"The theater gives us the opportunity to expose the dogs to different stimuli such as lights, loud noises, and movement of varying degrees," she continued. "The dogs must remain relaxed in tight quarters for an extended period of time."

The dogs got to enjoy the show from their own seats and took a break with everyone else during intermission. They were able to familiarize themselves with the theater experience so they know how to navigate through crowds and fit into tight bathroom stalls.

via Stratford Festival / Twitter


via Stratford Festival / Twitter


via Stratford Festival / Twitter

"About a dozen dogs came to our relaxed performance, and they were all extremely well-behaved," says Stratford Festival spokesperson Ann Swerdfager. "I was in the lobby when they came in, then they took their seats, then got out of their seats at intermission and went back — all of the things we learn as humans when we start going to the theater."

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The dogs' great performance at the trial run means that people who require service animals can have the freedom to enjoy special experiences like going to the theater.

"It's wonderful that going to the theater is considered one of the things that you want to train a service dog for, rather than thinking that theater is out of reach for people who require a service animal, because it isn't," Swerdfager said.

The Stratford Festival runs through Nov. 10 and features productions of "The Merry Wives of Windsor," "The Neverending Story," "Othello," "Billy Elliot," "Little Shop of Horrors," "The Crucible" and more.

Inclusivity

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Maybe your parent lived with debilitating depression that thrust you into the role of caregiver from a very young age.

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