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How Vertical Farming Works

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How Vertical Farming Works

Image courtesy of: Futurism

How Vertical Farming Works

By 2050, there will be 3 billion more people in existence, and close to 80% of the world’s population will live in urban areas. The demand for food will be unprecedented, and we will need to figure out how to get food to the cities in the most effective way.

Enter vertical farming – the idea of building entire skyscrapers occupied with vertically-stacked farms that produce crops twice as fast, while using 40% less power, having 80% less food waste, and using 99% less water than outdoor fields.

Is it feasible, or is it a futuristic money pit?

The Advantages of Vertical Farming

There’s no question that vertical farming has enticing potential benefits.

The first is yield. Vertical farming can produce crops year-round, which increases production efficiency by a multiplier of 4 to 6 depending on the crop. There would also be less wastage and spoilage, as most of the crops could be sold fresh in a market or restaurant from the same facility. It’s estimated that 30% of harvested crops today are lost due to spoilage or infestation.

Secondly, vertical farming has less risk associated with it. Big weather events such as floods, droughts, or storms can put a dent into agricultural activity fast, costing farmers billions of dollars. Farming indoors can reduce the risk of these types of events to as low as possible.

Lastly, vertical farming is inherently more sustainable. By stacking farms vertically, the productivity per unit of land can be many times higher and arable land can be saved for other purposes. Further, there are no transportation costs to get the crops to market, and energy and water can be recycled within the building. Methane digesters can even help convert organic waste to energy to help power the building.

On paper, vertical farming seems to have big advantages.

Too Good to be True?

Critics of vertical farming question the potential profitability of commercial operations.

They say the capital expenditures, as well as the additional energy costs for lighting and heating, could outweigh any benefits. Building complex plumbing and elevator systems to distribute food and water throughout a 30-story building is not easy.

Meanwhile, for traditional farming operations, both sunlight and heat are free. Irrigation is generally cheap as well.

The benefits of vertically-stacked farms would have to outweigh the increased costs. With billions of new people being added to cities over the next decades, this could come be sooner than later.

Original graphic by: Futurism

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Charting the Next Generation of Internet

In this graphic, Visual Capitalist has partnered with MSCI to explore the potential of satellite internet as the next generation of internet innovation.

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Teaser image of a bubble chart showing the large addressable market of satellite internet.

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The following content is sponsored by MSCI

Could Tomorrow’s Internet be Streamed from Space?

In 2023, 2.6 billion people could not access the internet. Today, companies worldwide are looking to innovative technology to ensure more people are online at the speed of today’s technology. 

Could satellite internet provide the solution?  

In collaboration with MSCI, we embarked on a journey to explore whether tomorrow’s internet could be streamed from space. 

Satellite Internet’s Potential Customer Base

Millions of people live in rural communities or mobile homes, and many spend much of their lives at sea or have no fixed abode. So, they cannot access the internet simply because the technology is unavailable. 

Satellite internet gives these communities access to the internet without requiring a fixed location. Consequently, the volume of people who could get online using satellite internet is significant:

AreaPotential Subscribers
Households Without Internet Access600,000,000
RVs 11,000,000
Recreational Boats8,500,000
Ships100,000
Commercial Aircraft25,000

Advances in Satellite Technology

Satellite internet is not a new concept. However, it has only recently been that roadblocks around cost and long turnaround times have been overcome.

NASA’s space shuttle, until it was retired in 2011, was the only reusable means of transporting crew and cargo into orbit. It cost over $1.5 billion and took an average of 252 days to launch and refurbish. 

In stark contrast, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 can now launch objects into orbit and maintain them at a fraction of the time and cost, less than 1% of the space shuttle’s cost.

Average Rocket Turnaround TimeAverage Launch/Refurbishment Cost
Falcon 9*21 days< $1,000,000
Space Shuttle252 days$1,500,000,000 (approximately)

Satellites are now deployed 300 miles in low Earth orbit (LEO) rather than 22,000 miles above Earth in Geostationary Orbit (GEO), previously the typical satellite deployment altitude.

What this means for the consumer is that satellite internet streamed from LEO has a latency of 40 ms, which is an optimal internet connection. Especially when compared to the 700 ms stream latency experienced with satellite internet streamed from GEO. 

What Would it Take to Build a Satellite Internet?

SpaceX, the private company that operates Starlink, currently has 4,500 satellites. However, the company believes it will require 10 times this number to provide comprehensive satellite internet coverage.

Charting the number of active satellites reveals that, despite the increasing number of active satellites, many more must be launched to create a comprehensive satellite internet. 

YearNumber of Active Satellites
20226,905
20214,800
20203,256
20192,272
20182,027
20171,778
20161,462
20151,364
20141,262
20131,187

Next-Generation Internet Innovation

Innovation is at the heart of the internet’s next generation, and the MSCI Next Generation Innovation Index exposes investors to companies that can take advantage of potentially disruptive technologies like satellite internet. 

You can gain exposure to companies advancing access to the internet with four indexes: 

  • MSCI ACWI IMI Next Generation Internet Innovation Index
  • MSCI World IMI Next Generation Internet Innovation 30 Index
  • MSCI China All Shares IMI Next Generation Internet Innovation Index
  • MSCI China A Onshore IMI Next Generation Internet Innovation Index

MSCI thematic indexes are objective, rules-based, and regularly updated to focus on specific emerging trends that could evolve.

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Click here to explore the MSCI thematic indexes

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