Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Since the very earliest wars, battlefield commanders have known that a successful strategy is to use food as a weapon. Vertical farming is a bold approach that will become a critical national asset — and will require protection.

Vertical farming — growing multiple crops in specially designed tall buildings in urban and suburban areas — is taking international farming into the 21st century. As urbanization accelerates in the 21st century and as many of the world’s urban areas are by seas, ensuring the security of these areas — inclusive of provision of basic quality of life, such as food — is a key requirement and challenge.

When nations go to war, history has shown that control of sea lines of communication is an essential element of strategic war planning. Consequently, the most visible aspects of a nation flexing its muscle are airplanes and ships rather than other dimensions of national security such as the industrial heartland and the great agricultural farms.

However, history shows that the free movement of all logistics, including agriculture products, during times of crisis and actual war can be the key to eventual victory.

With vertical farming, the output of food is significantly larger than horizontal farm land. So fully understanding the need to militarily protect vertical farms as a critical national asset, greater output means much greater sustained deterrence.

An additional aspect of modern continental war is that flat or slightly rolling farmland is often a perfect battlefield for mechanized war. Tank engagements with infantry and combined arms artillery fires are very destructive of harvests. That is the tragedy of Poland’s and Ukraine’s topography.

This is where 21st century vertical farming can make a major difference.

Vertical farming’s infrastructure directly supports defense and security by reducing stress on transportation and delivery systems.

And one of the most important aspects of this infrastructure is the ability to provide for self-sufficiency without the need to rely on global supply chains and long-distance shipping. By removing chokepoints for provision of basic sustainment of a nation, national security is enhanced and defense demands are reduced.

And for a country like the United States, which is a large federal system with several key urban areas defining its global reach, enhanced autonomy within those urban areas is paramount. Vertical farming provides both a self-sustaining flexible farming infrastructure for urban populations and increased redundancy to support operations from a variety of points of operation for U.S. forces. Global military installations with self-sustaining vertical farms might be a way for future mitigation of the need for global transportation of agriculture products.

Put in other words, the success of the vision of vertical farming is part of a 21st century renaissance in reshaping the infrastructure for the security of the nation. And when that vision is implemented in the urban areas of our partners and allies, an overall enhancement in infrastructure security is clearly on the way.

Moreover, by introducing vertical farming in dense and packed urban areas in Third World nations, poverty could be reduced as well the demand side on countries like the United States that are often required to provide global assistance.

In short, agility in a much more efficient supply coupled with a commiserate reduced demand on the transportation system are major enhancements to the theory and practice of combat logistical planning to the national security system — these are part of the benefits that can be delivered by vertical farming.

Robbin F. Laird, Ph.D., is a senior military and security analyst and author of 16 books. He is a member of the Breaking Defense Board of Contributors (https://breakingdefense.com) and Editor of Defense.info, which looks at the changing global strategic environment.

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