Thursday, August 19, 2010

Vertical Farming

Current demographic trends reveal that our population will jump another 3 billion people by 2050, at which point almost 80% of us will be living in urban areas. Assuming that we continue our traditional farming techniques, an area of land larger than the size of Brazil will be required to grow enough food to feed us all. The problem is that currently over 80% of the world's land suitable for growing crops is being used (Sources: NASA & FAO).

Columbia University microbiologist, Dickson Despommier believes that the solution to humanities newest predicament is the large scale introduction of vertical farming. Since mastering the art of growing food horizontally, we have sacrificed countless thriving ecosystems and replaced them with fields of crops. We protect ourselves from the elements by moving into cities and living in tall buildings, yet let our growing food fend for itself against flooding, droughts, and hurricanes. With our booming population it's high time to learn how to grow our food locally, in buildings within urban centers. Vertical farms offer the possibility of year-round crop production and the simultaneous repair of ecosystems as we gradually lose our reliance on horizontal farming. Also, let's not forget how this could decrease fossil fuel burning, which is needed to power tractors, plows, and various shipping methods.

Along with the benefit of no weather or insect related crop failures, vertical farms would eliminate agricultural runoff by recycling black water. They would also add energy back to the grid via methane generation from composting non-edible parts of plants and animals. Depending on the crop, 1 indoor acre is the equivalent to 4-6 outdoor acres or more. Just consider that one 30 story building taking up an entire NYC block would feed 50,000 people per year. This means that 165 sky farms spread across the 5 boroughs would be enough to continuously feed all of New York. For more information visit The Vertical Farm Project.

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