As the effects of climate change come barreling toward us, are generic corporate sustainability initiatives enough to keep agriculture companies from being pummeled by the winds of disruption? The effects of climate change may lead to an almost 17% decrease in total crop value in the near term without some sort of intervention.  As the demand for local food increases, states like California are losing 50,000 acres of farmland every year resulting in greater need to ship or import from other parts of the world.  All this multiplied by the fact that the world population is expected to reach 9 Billion by 2050 meaning we’ll need 70 greater food production to meet demand. 
One 165-year-old agriculture company has a plan to combat the effects climate change has on the company while working to mitigate the effect the company has on the environment. But is it enough?
Generic Corporate Sustainability Approach
Dole is one of the largest producers of fruits and vegetables in the world, and arguably the most recognizable brand in the produce industry. Currently, Dole’s approach consists of making improvements to 3 focus areas: water conservation, carbon reduction, and soil degradation. 
Water Management. The company has taken efforts to improve water conservation by improving irrigation systems and measuring the impact of their water footprint. Their bananas in Costa Rica currently have a water footprint of zero because they are rain-fed, but they make no mention of their more local US crops like winter lettuce. 
Carbon Reduction. They’ve made a few efforts to reduce their carbon footprint by using trains instead of trucks, using less fertilizer, and training truck drivers in ways to improve fuel conservation.  Unfortunately they don’t have initiatives to produce or use more local food sources reducing the distance food needs to travel.
Soil Conservation. They have employed techniques to reduce soil erosion and productivity loss by reducing tillage using GPS guided tillers, rotating crops, and using data to confirm sustainability of soil over time. 
Are Dole’s current sustainability efforts enough to keep it around for another 165 years? Though their plan is one of the more comprehensive plans of those in the food industry, they need to be thinking about true innovation. These incremental improvement aren’t going to cut it since production needs to drastically improve with increasingly limited resources.
Could Vertical Farming be the Silver Bullet?
One critical piece missing from Dole’s plan is a marked investment in the future rather than simply incremental improvement. I’d argue that “Vertical Farming” is that piece. With arable land being finite at 11% of the current land area, production needs to be at least doubled in the next 30-40 years.  Vertical farming “is a system of commercial farming whereby plants, animals, fungi and other life forms are cultivated for food, fuel, fibre or other products or services by artificially stacking them vertically above each other” (see Figure 1 below).  Essentially, an artificial farm can be created indoors where the environment can be completely controlled from outside contaminants, disease, pesticides, and adverse weather all while using non-agricultural land.
Vertical farming can lead to a number of benefits because of its flexibility. One benefit is decreased CO2 emissions because you can locate these farms in or close to urban areas. One study showed that farming in “peri-urban” areas can cut CO2 emission in half!  Bower Farms, a new venture-backed vertical farming startup in New York, claims that it uses 95% less water than traditional agriculture and is 100 times more productive on the size of land.  This doesn’t even account for the transportation benefit since its farm is only 8 miles from NYC. A study done in Europe showed even more promising outcomes saying that its 37-floor farm was 512 time more productive than traditional agriculture. 
The initial outcomes of these tests show how promising this solution might be, but the big question is can it be profitable? For a company like Dole whose production and performance is okay at the moment, what’s the rush on investing in crazy ideas like this?
Who better than the Dole agriculture experts to invest in and start developing this technology. Can Dole be on the cutting edge? Or is it stuck in mire of 165 years of traditional agriculture?
 Arnaud Costinot, Dave Donaldson, and Cory Smith, “Evolving Comparative Advantage and the Impact of Climate Change in Agricultural Markets: Evidence from 1.7 Million Fields around the World,” Journal of Political Economy 124, no. 1 (February 2016): 205-248.
 Renata Brillinger, Jeanne Merrill, and Kathryn Lyddan, “Triple Harvest: Farmland conservation for climate protection, smart growth and food security in California,” California Climate and Agriculture Network (Februaary 2013) p. 5
 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “How to Feed the World in 2050,” High-level Expert Forum, Rome, October 12-13, 2009. p. 2
 Dole Food Company, “Sustainability,” http://dolecrs.com/sustainability/, accessed October 2017.
 Dole Food Company, “Water Footprint Assessment Bananas and Pineapples,” May 2011.
 Dole Food Company, “Carbon Footprint Reduction,” http://dolecrs.com/sustainability/carbon-footprint/reduction/, accessed October 2017.
 Dole Food Company, “Soil Conservation,” http://dolecrs.com/sustainability/soil-conservation/soil-conservation-in-dole-agricultural-practices/, accessed October 2017.
 Chirantan Banerjee and Lucie Adenaeuer. “Up, Up and Away! The Economics of Vertical Farming.” Journal of Agricultural Studies [Online], 2.1 (2014): p. 41
 Chirantan Banerjee and Lucie Adenaeuer. “Up, Up and Away! The Economics of Vertical Farming.” Journal of Agricultural Studies [Online], 2.1 (2014): p. 42-43
 Alison Rothwell, Brad Ridoutt, Girija Page, and William Bellotti, “Environmental performance of local food: trade-offs and implications for climate resilience in a developed city,” Journal of Cleaner Production, Volume 114, 2016, Pages 420-430
 Bowery Farming, “Why Bowery,” http://boweryfarming.com/why-bowery, accessed October 2017
 Chirantan Banerjee and Lucie Adenaeuer. “Up, Up and Away! The Economics of Vertical Farming.” Journal of Agricultural Studies [Online], 2.1 (2014): p. 44