Wheat yield potential in controlled-environment vertical farms

Senthold Asseng, Jose R. Guarin, Mahadev Raman, Oscar Monje, Gregory Kiss, Dickson D. Despommier, Forrest M. Meggers, Paul P.G. Gauthier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

101 Scopus citations


Scaling current cereal production to a growing global population will be a challenge. Wheat supplies approximately one-fifth of the calories and protein for human diets. Vertical farming is a possible promising option for increasing future wheat production. Here we show that wheat grown on a single hectare of land in a 10-layer indoor vertical facility could produce from 700 ± 40 t/ha (measured) to a maximum of 1,940 ± 230 t/ha (estimated) of grain annually under optimized temperature, intensive artificial light, high CO2 levels, and a maximum attainable harvest index. Such yields would be 220 to 600 times the current world average annual wheat yield of 3.2 t/ha. Independent of climate, season, and region, indoor wheat farming could be environmentally superior, as less land area is needed along with reuse of most water, minimal use of pesticides and herbicides, and no nutrient losses. Although it is unlikely that indoor wheat farming will be economically competitive with current market prices in the near future, it could play an essential role in hedging against future climate or other unexpected disruptions to the food system. Nevertheless, maximum production potential remains to be confirmed experimentally, and further technological innovations are needed to reduce capital and energy costs in such facilities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19131-19135
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number32
StatePublished - 11 Aug 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Vertical farm
  • Wheat
  • Yield


Dive into the research topics of 'Wheat yield potential in controlled-environment vertical farms'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this