The renowned investment bank Barclays Capital recent announcement was published in Food Navigator this spring, claiming that vertical farms are poised to capitalise on a US$50bn global market opportunity and will provide solutions to some of the greatest long-term challenges facing the food system today.

Leveraging advanced technology, vertical farms can grow hundreds of acres’ worth of crops on one acre with such precision that produce is ultimately more flavourful and pesticide-free. Vertical farming does not require deforestation or large amounts of water, and does not add to water pollution. And, because these farms can be located virtually anywhere and are highly automated, produce is local and fresher, food waste is reduced, and underserved populations can be reached – features that can be particularly advantageous in critical times such as the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Given all that the current food system has to overcome, including volatile weather, growing populations, complicated supply webs and a warming climate, the analysts at Barclays Capital see indoor vertical farming as  a timely opportunity. “With the technology proven and a value proposition that is appealing to developed and developing economies alike, we believe vertical farms are in pole position to disrupt the global agricultural industry.”

Although they caution the industry has to expand beyond leafy greens, invest in sustainable energy sources and overcome the initial capital investment, they remain firm that the prospects offered by vertical farming can have a far-reaching impact on participants throughout the fresh food value chain. On the whole, they assert the industry will impact established food retailers, as well as ‘relatively new entrants to the category’ such as Amazon, as well as restaurants and food service distributors. “Importantly, we believe that the potential environmental and social benefits would appeal to all participants.”

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