Introduction | Vertical Farms 

In today’s world, the rise in pollution due to migration to cities is becoming a matter of concern for developed nations, coupled with the increasing need for energy efficiency and the use of natural resources. This increased population in our urban areas is causing food insecurities; it is on this concept that Architects, Agriculturist, environmentalists, etc., are all responding positively to the resilience and demand in the food production industry to cushion the food crisis by providing a controlled environment for sustainable agricultural practice in urban areas. This response also promotes the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal number two, as sustainability is becoming an important priority. The idea of vertical farms is not entirely new, as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of Philon’s Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, built around 600 BC, gave us clues to what we have today.

The term vertical farming was coined by American geologist Gilbert Ellis Bailey in 1915. In 1999, Dickson Despommier, a professor at New York‘s Columbia University popularized the modern idea of vertical farming with his students.

An overview of vertical farms - Sheet1
bamboo-framed vertical farm_


Vertical farming is the concept of growing plants and crops in upward indoor spaces using a modular system. The goal of vertical farming is the ability to produce food all year round in urban areas, reduce food transportation costs, and slow deforestation.

It is becoming the solution to traditional outdoor farming on a large expanse of a horizontal surface by occupying less land area.

An overview of vertical farms - Sheet2
Green belly vertical farm

Fundamentally, the economics of vertical farming is limited, due to the high investment cost it requires compared with traditional horizontal farming. Traditional farming on the other hand has its limitations in terms of land availability and uncontrolled environmental and climatic effects on the crops, which in turn affects the quality and quantity of the yield.

Advantages of Vertical Farming

One of the purposes of vertical farm building is to handle the rural-urban migrations by bringing the farms to the urban areas. We will need more than the size of a city to provide food for the world as more people move from rural areas to urban areas, leaving their farms behind.

Vertical farming also:

  • Contributes to the restoration of the forest and develops local biodiversity
  • promotes efficient use of urban spaces
  • encourage increased yield
  • Year-round production
  • is environmentally friendly.
  • uses few resources, such as water, energy
  • Reuses organic waste.

Vertical farm buildings are also a strategy for food cost reduction. Imagine urban farm buildings in the cities we live in or streets or houses. There won’t be much need to move products about, that will reduce fuel consumption, and transport costs, and make food accessible.

Vertical Farm Buildings

Vertical farm buildings are lightweight and energy-efficient buildings that promote such methods of farming. They could be a few floors or multi-story buildings, most times a hall, with modular plant trays. They differ from greenhouses in terms of their height. Indeed, the higher the vertical farm, the more products it yields.

The design of vertical farm buildings is dependent on the technological method of farming to be used in the process. which could be:

  • Hydroponics: A technique of growing plants and crops using a water-based nutrient solution without soil. 
  • Aeroponics: A technique of growing crops without soil still, but their roots are suspended in the air.
  • The hybrid method: This technique consists of aquaculture and aquaponics.

 A well-designed vertical farm building should have sustainability in focus, with minimal waste. These buildings could meet their energy and water requirements through rain collection and water recycling, solar and wind generation, and electricity generation from biogas or biofuels. The building provides spaces for cultivation rooms, offices, markets, food courts, plants packaging, etc filled with the produce grown on the floors above and packaged in biodegradable packaging produced on-site.

An overview of vertical farms - Sheet3
Anatomy of a vertical farm_https://s-media-cache

Design & Construction 

As architects, vertical farm buildings, like other building types, are purpose-made designs. They are planned using modular systems to accommodate a wide range of crops, and also ease flexibility. As technology, agriculture, and architecture evolve, designs will be diversified to accommodate farmers’ residences, and other activities.

These buildings are designed with steel construction with truss beams connecting concrete slabs to the core with greeneries on the façade reducing solar heat gain in the interiors and reducing the need for air-conditioning. The principles of the design border around the plant and crops stacked on shelves. The walling systems consist of about three layers, depending on which farming technology to be used. 

  • A layer for electrical and plumbing pipes, 
  • another layer for insulation, and 
  • a layer to hold the gardening elements.

Design considerations such as natural light, rain, and wind directions are vital to the planning and form generation, in addition to the general planning principles of high-rise buildings. Vertical farm buildings are best designed with modularity and regular spatial distribution. Like other building types,

Vertical farm buildings will require a lot of technological applications to have a smooth run, like robotics and automation systems, microcontrollers, plant racks, climate controls, LED lights, spray systems, and water systems. etc.

An overview of vertical farms - Sheet4
Typical section through a vertical farm_ partners_dezeen_936_9.jpg
Green belly concept of the vertical farm_


Vertical farming is still a growing phenomenon. It will contribute a great deal to food sustainability in cities. This is most important as we project an increase in our urban population. It has various advantages over rural farming, and architects must be prepared to streamline their perspectives to align with this building type.


Dickson Despommier, “building a viable indoor farming model for cities”, Field Actions Science Reports, Special Issue 20 | 2019, 68-73.

Future (2023) [Accessed on 14 February 2023] [Accessed on 14 February 2023]

The Term (2023) [Accessed on 14 February 2023]

History (2023) [Accessed on 16 February 2023]

Green belly (2023) [Accessed on 16 February 2023]


Edet Samuel is a Nigerian based architect with consistent practice experience in the built environment He began his career as a pupil architect in a firm and grew through the ranks of starting out his practice. He holds a Masters degree in Architecture from the University of Nigeria, and he's currently pursuing Doctorate with focus on Intelligent building management systems, architectural forensics, and Urban design. Edet Samuel has been exposed to a wide range of design projects cutting across major categories of buildings, and has contributed this experiences to students' academic works. Edet is broadly interested in contemporary responses and diversification in architecture, especially in areas of improved working drawings & detailing, design information and management, public health architecture in this era of pandemics that has made the home front the first line of defense, and design as 'preventive medicine'.