Vertical Farms

27 January 2009

Is this the new urban agriculture?

Illustration: Pyramid farm by Eric Ellingsen and Dickson Despommier

60% of the human population lives in cities. If the number of people in the world continues to increase, they will need to eat. Columbia University professor of public health Dickson Despommier, has put forward the Vertical Farm Project: he proposes growing food in what are effectively skyscraper greenhouses. Though the idea has been mocked in some quarters, it has merit.

“Vertical farms, many stories high, will be situated in the heart of the world's urban centers. If successfully implemented, they offer the promise of urban renewal, sustainable production of a safe and varied food supply (year-round crop production), and the eventual repair of ecosystems that have been sacrificed for horizontal farming.”

Illustration: The living skyscraper by Blake Kurasek

Despommier believes there are many advantages to vertical farming, inlcuding protection from weather and diseases, reduction of fossil fuel use such as tractors and transportation, and year-round production.

Though this is just a concept at the moment, pressure on food production, increases in transport costs, and the loss of fertile land through climate change could well make this vision a reality.

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