Monday, November 30, 2009

Future of Farming May Be Urban High Rises

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:
  • 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
 As soon as one of these opens up, you can be sure that we'll blog about it!

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1 comment:

  1. Vertical farming is really a joke proposal. It would require massive amounts of energy to build a vertical farm, and even the daily operation would use more energy than you would save from transporting food shorter distances. This means a vertical farm would generate large amount of net carbon and contribute to global warming. It would also be much less resilient in the face of energy shortages or peak oil. However, that's not to say that growing more food in urban areas isn't a good idea. Growing food on lawns and building community gardens are both great idea.