Low-Nutrient, Vertical-Farming Foods Could Pose Serious Health Risk To Vegans Hell-Bent On Saving Planet

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.

Clean obsessions

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.”

25 responses to “Low-Nutrient, Vertical-Farming Foods Could Pose Serious Health Risk To Vegans Hell-Bent On Saving Planet”

  1. Curious George

    Artificial light instead of a sunlight. Yes, plants will grow – but how much energy does a vertical farm consume? Can it compete with a horizontal farm?

    1. GlobalMF

      If they use LED lighting, not much energy.

  2. sod

    I agree with most of this article.

  3. Tom Anderson

    And you might say that the life-threatening consequences of the vegan diet, by killing its devotees, nicely exemplify natural selection in action.

    1. Green Sand

      Can’t deny the logic behind the natural selection process.

  4. Nigel S

    ‘We must eat a peck of dirt before we die.’ At least they haven’t hot wired the street lights to grow skunk.

  5. GlobalMF

    Most of the food sold in the US is not grown in black, worm-infested soil. It is largely grown in infertile, dead soil that must have large quantities of synthetic fertilizers applied. Also, pesticides/herbicides. So there really is no difference, except for the addition of disease-causing poisons.

    Soil is simply a medium to anchor the plant and provide nutrients, air and water. You can use anything for that medium so long as it meets those requirements. I have grown lush gardens in gravel regularly flushed with fish tank water. The fish waste feeds the plants, and the plants clean the water.

  6. GlobalMF

    btw, a friend’s house overlooks a very large farm that grows tomatoes, peppers, etc for regional supermarkets. The soil is basically sand with no nutritive value. They mound each row, install irrigation lines and then cover each row with plastic. Pumps at the river with fertilizer injectors irrigate the crops. So it is basically hydroponics, which in essence is no different than aeroponics (what you see in the video). Depending on where you live, this is how some of the food you buy in the grocery store is grown.

  7. John F. Hultquist

    I prefer to have cattle eat the veggies and then use glowing coals to fix the steak.

    They need to do taste tests and wide and deep nutrient comparisons, with published results.

    This, also, may be a reuse of old department stores as on-line shopping continues to “eat the lunch” of historic retailers.

  8. dooberdoober

    Only unintelligent individuals are malnourished on a “vegan” diet.
    A human can barely survive on animal products alone, and this with eating all the organ meats.
    Plants are basically a requirement to *thrive* in a human body. There is no nutrient which *must* be obtained from an animal product source; bacteria, yes (b12).

    1. dooberdoober

      But I do agree. It will be tough to mimic nature in these grow ops.

    2. DirkH

      “Only unintelligent individuals are malnourished on a “vegan” diet.”

      Well yeah – the supid women who follow the vegan pied pipers are exactly that. And it won’t get better when after a years the Vitamin B deficiency manifests itself when their liver depot is depleted. They go mad and when you point out Vitamin B deficiency to them they’re like “But Veganism can’t be the reason because it worked for 5 years.”

      It’s really the definition of stupid, especially once your brain dies.

  9. Don from OZ

    Bowery “‘We do also regularly test for nutrient composition to ensure plant health and quality, though we don’t publicly release this data.”
    Why release data that is going to reveal the very low density rates of nutrients?
    These artificially produced veges are usually missing many ‘trace’elements that plants take up from the soil like zinc, molybdenum,iron, magnesium and many more.
    Some would be way too expensive to add to water in artificial systems.
    Vegans are the first to decry ‘artificial’fertilizers in normal farming practice
    Here in Australia we are regularly reminded to eat balanced diets containing fruit, vegetables, dairy products and meat( contains 17 essential amino acids) for a healthy life.
    Thanks Pierre for the divergence from the never ending saga of the non-science, non-sensical climate debate.

  10. Stephen Richards

    But actually,
    Low-Nutrient, Vertical-Farming Foods Could Pose Serious Health Risk To Vegans Hell-Bent On Saving Planet –

    Do the other 97% care

  11. DirkH

    Think about the poor dwarfs that do the harvesting. Can I say dwarfs? Well, I mean little people. These stacks of platforms are too small for real people. I mean, normal people. I mean, tall people.
    Will they even have elevators for the little people? Or will they have to climb up and down staircases thousands of times a day?

    1. GlobalMF

      My guess is that the process would be automated like a carousel. The harvesters would stand in one spot while each each individual flat is sequentially indexed to them.

      1. DirkH

        Dang! I didn’t think of that! Thanks!

  12. CO2isLife
  13. GlobalMF

    That woman at the thehealthyhomeeconomist blog doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Brix is the measure of primarily sugar content; mineral concentrations follow below the detection threshold of a brix meter.

    My dad used to work at a juice processing facility. Whenever juice fell below a certain brix threshold, they would add sugar. So Brix is no measure of nutrient density unless you consider sugar to be a nutrient.

  14. Jim

    Unfortunately, sugars are a needed food source. Many people do not remember, veggies taste flat without sugars, same with animal fats, both are necessary for a balanced diet. Both are vilified, but, I also remember a form of hydroponics that used a mud bath very thinned down to feed the plants. But that was for veggies in the 60’s. In Michigan.

  15. monarch

    Wow, what a garbage article.

    Starts out all scientific, like you’re flaming vegans for being unscientific…

    But then halfway through the article it becomes clear you don’t have a valid point or any evidence, you literally just don’t like vertical farming because ‘it doesn’t feel natural’, using the same naturalistic fallacy as vegans and hippies.

    And your evidence? None whatsoever. Just that you don’t like it, and you haven’t tested for nutrient density so you can’t prove that it’s the same (even though there’s no reason for it not to be the same, besides your feelings).

    And then you put this out, like it’s a scientific article, to mislead dumb people into accepting your feelings as scientific fact.

    Pathetic and shameful.

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