Vertical farming becomes more and more popular worldwide. Still, adaptation to a new way of growing food is not spread evenly across the globe. There are countries in the world that are very open to this idea and where there are more and more vertical farms being built every year. On the other hand, in some countries, there is not a single vertical farm yet.
Currently, the country with the highest number of vertical farms is the USA. In Asia, the leading countries in the industry are Japan, China, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand. In Europe, vertical farms can be found among others in Germany, France, UK, and the Netherlands. Countries from the Middle East also don’t lag behind with farms in Kuwait and UAE.
If you’re interested in finding out what is the state of vertical farming in particular regions of the world and why some countries resort to this type of crop cultivation, you’ve come to the right place.
Countries Which Already Use Vertical Farming
Vertical farming, which is a part of smart agriculture, is expanding rapidly in Japan. The number of PFALs for commercial production in Japan was 186 in 2017. As of 2019, Japan was in the lead for the number of plant factories equipped with artificial light (PFALs). However, most of these factories are relatively small, and the Japanese government intends to increase their number and popularity.
There are currently over 200 vertical farms in japan that focus on producing vegetables. Half of them use LEDs for indoor growing.
The biggest vertical farming company in Japan is SPREAD. They started their business in 2007 when they opened Kameoka Farm near Kyoto, which still produces up to 21,000 lettuce heads per day. 11 years later, the company opened their second fully-functional vertical farm called Techno Farm Keihanna, near the city of Nara. The majority of the hard labor is automated, producing 30,000 heads of healthy, safe, and delicious lettuce per day.
Another major company is Mirai, where 10,000 heads of lettuce are produced each day, under 17,500 LED lights.
China has a unique population problem in the world, and food is tightly related to it. It’s tough to feed such a huge amount of people, and vertical farming can significantly help in solving this issue because it allows growing healthy food while using much less surface than traditional farming would take up.
Similarly to Japan, the average age of farmers in China is a huge issue, so it needs a new approach to agriculture.
There are plenty of vertical farms in China already. In 2017, when vertical farming was on a slow rise, they already had over 80 of these farms.
Companies like SananBio and Noonty have farms in China and also provide worldwide farms with LEDs, infrastructure, and other high-end technologies. In the province of Fujian, a 5,000 square meters large facility produces 8 to 10 tonnes of lettuce, kale, and other leafy vegetables under the sea of LED lights.
Taiwanese YesHealth iFarm is one of the most successful and one of the oldest vertical farms in the world. Their facility in Taoyuan City is the largest indoor vertical farm in Asia. It produces more than 1600 kg of green-leafed vegetables and plans on doubling its production in the near future.
Being the leading country in developing and producing LED lights, it’s no surprise that their vertical farms use those lights during vegetable production.
NextOn created a vertical farm in an abandoned highway tunnel and has been dubbed as a farm under the mountain. This tunnel, 120 km south of Seoul, uses LEDs and semi-automatic technologies to successfully grow leafy greens, predominantly salads.
Farm 8 cultivates 40 tonnes of baby-leaf vegetables, paprika, and other western miniaturized green vegetables per day. The majority of this food is produced on more than 16,500 m2 of land and facilities in Pyeongtaek. They’ve partnered with some major corporations, like Samsung, Starbucks, 7Eleven, Subway, and many more.
Since vertical farming relies a lot on innovations in technology, you can expect a lot of news coming from South Korea regarding major progress in this field.
The estimated market size of smart agriculture in Korea is more than 5.4 trillion won ($4.5 billion), and PFALs alone are worth more than $600 million.
Sky Greens is the most famous vertical farming company in Singapore, if not in the entire world. Over 800 kg of various vegetables are produced there daily. Most plants are traditional Asian greens, like nai bai, cai xin, chinese cabbage, etc.
Singapore today has over 25 indoor vertical farms. Some major companies in Singapore, aside from Sky Greens, are Citiponics Urban Farm, ComCrop, Upgrown Farming, and many more. The majority of them are equipped with LEDs, which means they fall into the PFAL category.
Thailand is still a country new to the vertical farming game. NoBitter and Wangree Fresh are their most famous farming companies. NoBitter excels in kale production, while Wangree monthly produces 50 tonnes of various green vegetables. Using PFALs and semi-automatic technologies, the future of skyfarming looks bright in Thailand.
It’s not a secret that the United States is a major player in vertical farming. However, more than 60% of farms belong to small, local farms. The biggest companies are Aero Farms in New Jersey, Plenty Unlimited in San Francisco, and Bowery Farming in New York.
They all produce all kinds of green vegetables, such as kale, pak choi, arugula, lettuce, and various salad mixes. All kinds of colored LEDs are commonly used in the American indoor farm industry.
In 2019, there were more than 2,000 vertical farms in the USA.
In 2018, the market value of vertical farming was estimated at around $226 million. In 2026, its predicted value is more than 6 times the amount, around $1.4 billion.
Berlin’s InFarm is one of the biggest vertical farming companies in Europe. During the COVID pandemic, they raised over $170 million, which brings their total funding over $400 million throughout the years.
Their main products are dijon mustard, salad, basil, thyme, and other green vegetables and herbs. The company is famous for using cloud farming, which enables constant tracking, upgrading, and adjusting their systems. This way, they’re able to grow over a hundred different products on their properties. They produce more than 150,000 plants a month now, but this number rises by the day.
The company plans to spread its farms over 5,000,000 square feet of farming facilities throughout Europe, North America, and Asia by 2025.
Other similar companies in Germany are ECF Farm Berlin, Agrilution Systems in Munich, and Farmers Cut in Hamburg.
France has quite several vertical farms, even though it’s still very new to this kind of farming. Some companies, like Agricool, grow lettuce, strawberries, basil, etc., in small containers across Paris. InFarm has a center in Villeneuve-la-Garenne, where they grow leafy green vegetables using the same cloud technology as in Germany.
Another company worth naming is ReFarmers, which specializes in cultivating medicinal herbs using indoor and urban farming methods in Paris.
Rest of Europe
Europe is at a significant rise when it comes to vertical farming. Many countries compete to dominate this market, which results in the birth of many new farms. In 2020, this market was worth over $0.85 billion.
In the U.K., you have Jones Food Company, which produces around 400 tonnes of vegetables, such as coriander, kale, and radish, per year. The company also homes the largest vertical farm in Europe, with more than 5,000 m2 of space.
In the Netherlands, there is OneFarm, which has multiple projects in the home country and in the U.K. Other major companies include GROWx in Amsterdam, UrbanFarmers in the Hague, and Plant Lab near Tilburg.
This article would be too long if I were to count all the vertical farms in Europe. However, one of them is worth the mention. Denmark plans to build a farm, in association with Taiwanese YesHealth, that could produce over 1,000 tonnes of vegetables annually. This will undoubtedly shift the market value in Europe and in the world.
Middle Eastern countries also don’t lag behind when it comes to indoor agriculture. A few years ago, wealthy countries started to join the vertical farming industry, and they’re ready to take over the market.
In Kuwait, NOX Management opened the first large-scale indoor farm that can produce over half a ton of healthy, leafy greens.
Badia Farms is UAE’s biggest indoor farming company that single-handedly plans to reduce water usage in the country and lower the import of vegetables. That’s why they grow a variety of veggies, such as lettuce, chives, wasabi, and many other local and non-local plants, as well as fruits. They produce more than 3.5 tonnes of food daily and expect that number to increase in the future.
Factors Driving Popularity and Adaptation of Vertical Farming Across the World
Vertical farming is, for now, only popular in countries that have the money and technology to invest and maintain such structures. Building-based farms are more popular than container types in Asia. Still, there are also many different solutions to the space problem.
For example, South Korea, China, and the U.K. intend to convert abandoned tunnels and underground bunkers into vertical farms.
Vertical farms gained popularity in Japan because most of the farmers there are very old, and this approach attracts younger people to join agriculture.
Another aspect is the rise in the organic food market, and all these companies produce high-quality, organically grown food. If you want to read more on how vertical farming produce can be organic, I wrote a separate article about it.
Participation of Particular Countries in Vertical Farming Market Share
In 2015, North America and Asia-Pacific dominated the vertical farming market, each having more than 33% of the share.
Four years later, when European and Middle Eastern countries started joining the game, North America still dominated the market with over 33% of the share, while Asian regions decreased.
American companies, such as AeroFarms and Illumitex helped to develop vertical farming in Europe, which means they also get a share of its success. In 2020, Europe had the second-highest share in the global vertical farm market, right after North America. Currently, it’s hard to say precisely who’s dominating the market because some sources expect the Asia Pacific to sweep the competition in the next 6 years. I think the market is still too unpredictable, and vertical farming is rising in popularity by the day. We will have to spectate for a couple of years to see the results.