[28 November/NZ Herald]

A report produced by Rachel McClung of Horticulture New Zealand as part of her Kellogg Rural Leadership programme, suggests that vertical farming, where food is grown indoors in stacks in a technology-controlled environment, is unlikely to replace traditional growing. Ms McClung said that spread of urban development into areas with prime soils, such as Pukekohe, and the impact of climate change on regional weather patterns, made it an appropriate time to look at alternative growing methods. However in recognising the benefits of vertical farming, Ms McClung said the cost of the electricity needed for artificial lighting and temperature control, combined with the high capital investment and operational costs need to also be taken into account and as a consequence the costs currently outweigh the benefits. The report found vertical farming was limited to leafy greens and herbs and unable to grow the full range of fruits and vegetables, and that also nothing was known about how it aligned with the cultural values of Māori. Ms McClung concluded vertical farming would not replace traditional growing but may supplement it in future if technology made it economically viable. Her report urged recognition that horticultural production was not just important for its economic benefits as the rural economy supported rural communities, but also because food production values were a platform for long-term sustainability of communities through the provision of food security, jobs and tourism.