Viewpoint: At $17/pound, vertically farmed vegetables are nowhere near sustainable

vertical farming

On [June 10] the city council of Jersey City, New Jersey [voted] on awarding a three-year, $1 million contract to the company AeroFarms to build 11 vertical gardens on city properties. The company estimates it will be able to churn out 19,000 pounds of leafy greens a year from these installations, which will then be distributed for free to city residents.

According to AeroFarms’ estimate, it will be able to produce about 58,000 pounds of produce over the life of its three-year contract.

This means that the city is paying $17 per pound of leafy vegetables produced. Even if one excludes the construction costs of the vertical farms (which would presumably be usable after the three-year contract ends), it’s still paying a little over $7 per pound of produce.

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A quick online search shows the city could buy a pound of spinach from Safeway for under $2 a pound. A 1-pound package of organic mixed greens at Walmart costs a little less than $5.

Related article:  COVID-19 prompts healthier eating habits, while interest in 'natural' foods remains high

It’s quite possible that one day, vertical urban farms will be a far more efficient option. Unfortunately, that day isn’t here yet.

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