There’s no doubt about it, most people today are highly confused and misinformed when it comes to proper nutrition. And when you look at the vast array of kooky food and diet fads out there, it’s clear very few people in fact understand what is really healthy. The obesity rates and chronic disease statistics tell the sad story.
Planet saving vegan diet
One of the main factors motivating some people to switch to a leafy-greenie vegan diet is to reduce the impact on a planet that is supposedly totally stressed out in part by meat-producing agriculture. That kind of environmental and food zealotry embodied by the vegan movement poses a considerable health risk to the vegans who do not practice it correctly — especially children and pregnant women. The risk of nutrient deficiency is way too high and so it’s little wonder that most doctors recommend avoiding the vegan diet altogether.
Vertical planet-saving farming indoors
The latest planet-saving trend that’s been taking off is urban, vertical farming using so-called hydroponic methods where soil and real sunlight are not even used. It’s done indoors, often in large, shut-down industrial buildings.
In the following video, Aerofarms claims (as do most vertical farms) a great number of advantages with its technology, such as the non-use of pesticides and herbicides, a highly monitored and controlled round-the-clock growing process, 95% water-use reduction, clean produce, and short farm-to-dinner table times.
More importantly, it boasts having a much smaller impact on the planet and climate, and many vertical farms are even backed by big investors, like Goldman Sachs.
Naturally, all these wonderful selling points will likely send planet-protection-obsessed vegans flocking in droves to this new source of leafy greens and produce.
But stepping back for a moment and taking a closer look, we see that these vertical farms are in fact far from being natural. They are industrial, technical mass food production that have very little to do with nature. They do not use soil, are automated, use artificial light, and there’s no exposure to weather elements. The real target is to produce as much plant mass as possible, and as quickly as possible. Nutrient density is a side issue.
Recycled plastic cloth instead of natural soil
At Aerofarms, located in an industrial area of Newark, New Jersey, the crop roots are put in “a reusable cloth made of recycled plastic”. Under the microfleece membrane, the bare roots are enveloped by “nutrient-rich mist”, another promotion video explains. In hydroponic farming, crop roots supposedly get constantly exposed to a “nutrient-rich” solution instead of regular fertile, worm-filled black earth that we typically associate with healthy crops.
Low nutrient density
Although these vertical farms are highly productive in terms of plant mass (which happens to be how food is sold, and not according to nutrient content), the question is just how nutrient-dense are these planet-saving industrially grown crops? Buying mass at a market is one thing, buying nutrients is quite another. After all, what good is a pound of kale if it was produced by doping the plant so that it makes lots of empty cellulose?
The human body needs in total dozens of essential minerals, trace elements, vitamins, fatty acids and amino acids to remain in good health. The source of many of these nutrients is fertile soil from Mother Nature. The question is: Can vertical, soil-less farms grow crops that are just as good as those grown outdoors with their roots in real earth in a real garden? Can a laboratory produce a hydroponic solution replace real soil?
Vegans may be putting themselves at higher risk
A number of experts are high skeptical, and warn that these artificially grown crops may be highly deficient in a vast number of essential nutrients.
For vegans, who are already practicing a diet that borders on malnutrition, opting for the vertically-farmed crop variety could pose serious and real health risks.
Criticism of vertical farms is not new. For example the healthy home economist here thinks hydroponically grown foods are in fact low-nutrient foods and should not be relied on.
Environmental awareness site treehugger here thinks “it’s wrong on so many levels”.
Even the greenie Guardian here wonders if it really makes any sense at all.
So what risks happening to the already half-starved, climate-panicked vegans who may be rushing to this new utopian source of leafy greens? There’s a high risk that they will only end up exacerbating their already nutrient-deficient situation and wind up making themselves ill quickly. Another case of good intentions possibly leading to a disaster.
No comment from vertical grower
I sent an e-mail (twice!) asking Bowery if they had their produce analyzed for nutrient content, and if so, if it would be possible to get the results so that a comparison to the regular stuff could be made. Up to now I have not gotten a reply of any type. I’m also skeptical.
Vegans would be well-advised to find out what nutrients are really in the produce that comes from vertical farms.
There’s another risk possibly associated with what also appears to be a growing obsession with food cleanliness and purity. We may indeed be doing the human species more harm than good over the long run, as the human immune system and our natural detoxification and cleansing systems may wind up getting lazy and slow over the long term. Our bodies are equipped to handle impurities. There’s a reason we have kidneys, a liver, etc. The risk is: If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.
Bowery just responded by email:
At Bowery, our nutrients are water soluble versions of the same ones you would find naturally occurring in the most fertile of soil environments, and this nutrient-rich water is taken up directly by the roots of our plants. By monitoring the growing process 24/7 and capturing data at each step, we give our crops exactly what they need and nothing more to grow the purest produce imaginable, while using absolutely zero pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides. We do also regularly test for nutrient composition to ensure plant health and quality, though we don’t publicly release this data.”