In the article Dinner As We Know it Is Hurting the Planet. But What If We Radically Rethink How We Make Food? in the February 3 edition of Time Magazine, Cornell CEA team leader Neil Mattson weighs in on the future of vertical farms:
Scaling obstacles also exist in vertical farming, and two vertical-farming startups already went out of business in 2016 and 2017. Plants need a tremendous amount of light to photosynthesize, about 50 times more than humans need to see, says Neil Mattson, a professor of plant science at Cornell University who is conducting a large-scale study of vertical farms. Vertical farms use LED lights to grow plants, and though the costs of LED lights have fallen significantly in recent years, lettuce grown in vertical farms in New York and Chicago was twice as expensive as lettuce grown in the California fields and shipped to those cities, according to a study co-authored by Mattson. Labor was costlier in New York and Chicago, and the structures that housed the vertical farms were expensive to build and maintain. Vertical-farm companies are experimenting with using solar and wind power to reduce their energy bills, but Mattson believes vertical farms will be cost-effective only when renewable-energy prices fall.