Economic Opportunity

Is the World’s Largest Vertical Farm Worth the Cost?

July 4, 2016

The world’s largest vertical farm is currently under construction in New Jersey. According to Ria Misra of Gizmodo, the farm will occupy a 70,000 square foot former steel mill and is expected to yield two million pounds of lettuce and other greens yearly.

While vertical farms do offer the ability for agriculture to exist in urban areas, the technology is nothing new. Furthermore, the costs of vertical farming often greatly outweigh the benefits.

In an article for Forbes last year, Scott Beyer heavily criticized not only the subsidy that New Jersey and the city of Newark gave AeroFarms but also the economics of vertical farming.

Beyer reported that the AeroFarms building cost an estimated $39 million for what amounted to less than two acres of farm land, noting in contrast that an acre of farmland in Iowa has an average cost less than $8,000.

Considering the high costs of vertical farming, readers may be skeptical that the benefits will outweigh the costs.  In either case, policymakers should avoid giving out taxpayer money in the form of corporate welfare and instead let private sector investors determine if vertical farming is a worthwhile venture.