This Vertical Farm in Chicago Is Cool, But Can It Really Be the Future?

Don't count on warehouse farms being the US's food supply savior just yet.

Humans will probably be living on Mars within a few decades, but we're still a long, long ways away from finding the next Earth. With our population booming and only about 37.7 percent of the Earth's land even suitable for farming, we're going to continue to have to develop higher and higher tech methods of producing food for ourselves.

While productivity in traditional agriculture has increased markedly in the last century, there's still that question of limited space. That's created interested in various alternative methods, included the indoor, vertical farming methods espoused by the subject of the AP's video above. Urban and indoor farming isn't a new idea, but Farmedhere's operation is pretty impressive. By converting an old warehouse into multi-level grow room, Farmedhere has created 150,000 square feet worth of space for growing arugula, basil, and other greens.

Rad, right? But 150,000 square feet only amounts to about 3.5 acres, which is great for producing high-end organic greens, but is still a long way from competing with the sheer acreage of traditional farms. The US has around 442 million acres of cropland, and while Farmedhere's model is cool–I especially like its ability to quickly swap crops to meet demand–it'll be a long time before warehouse farming could make an appreciable dent in our ag system.

Plus there's the fact that while the Sun powers traditional farms for free, warehouses require fluorescent lights. Farmedhere says in the video that it's planning on converting its warehouse to methane energy, but even if it does, that's still an added cost, and however green the energy source is, all those lights are less environmentally-friendly than not needing them at all. (The shorter shipping distance to markets does make a difference, however.) Still, for high-end, local greens, it's a pretty cool model, and I do think it's important to bring farming back into cities. But don't count on warehouse farms being the US's food supply savior just yet.