Among the sustainable food production solutions that I am watching with some intrigue is the rise in talk of vertical farming.
Could urban buildings really provide enough food to feed cities, you might wonder? Well, I wonder the same.
The benefits of these farms certainly sound enticing:
Moving farms off land and into urban buildings offers a solution to land and water scarcity and a really impressive swath of other natural, health, economic and political challenges:As soon as one of these opens up, you can be sure that we'll blog about it!
- Produces crops year-round; 1 indoor acre is equivalent to 4-6 outdoor acres or more, depending upon the crop (e.g., strawberries: 1 indoor acre = 30 outdoor acres)
- Avoids weather-related crop failures due to droughts, floods, pests
- Grown organically: no herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers
- Virtually eliminates agricultural runoff by recycling black water
- Returns farmland to nature, restoring ecosystem functions and services
- Greatly reduces the incidence of many infectious diseases that are acquired at the agricultural interface
- Converts black and gray water into potable water by collecting the water of evapotranspiration
- Adds energy back to the grid via methane generation from composting non-edible parts of plants and animals
- Dramatically reduces fossil fuel use (no tractors, plows, shipping.)
- Converts abandoned urban properties into food production centers
- Creates sustainable environments for urban centers
- Creates new employment opportunities
- We cannot go to the moon, Mars, or beyond without first learning to farm indoors on earth
- May prove to be useful for integrating into refugee camps
- Offers the promise of measurable economic improvement for tropical and subtropical Least Developing Countries (LDC). If this should prove to be the case, then vertical farms may be a catalyst in helping to reduce or even reverse the population growth of LDCs as they adopt urban agriculture as a strategy for sustainable food production.
- Could reduce the incidence of armed conflict over natural resources, such as water and land for agriculture