Sunday, March 8, 2009

Growing Up

We live vertically. Why not grow our food vertically? That's the proposal of Dickson Despommier, who believes we should carry out large-scale agriculture in urban highrises - in other words embark on vertical farming. Since agricultural land is being eaten up and the population is shifting increasingly into urban areas, it makes sense to undertake this kind of farming.

Vertical farms would have a high bird-to-stone ratio. This one solution could address many problems:
  • Eliminate the agricultural run-off that causes 75% of the problems with the oceans
  • Provide year-round crop production
  • Eliminate crop loss due to severe weather events
  • Use 70% less water, and no fossil fuels, pesicides, or herbicides
  • Help repair the damaged ecosystem by allowing farms to return to a natural state
  • Grow foods closer to consumption, reducing transportation costs and carbon emissions

Despommier, a professor at Columbia, has been a proponent of this idea for some time, and many designs have been proposed. Economic analysis has yet to prove that the costs of farming this way are less than the benefits. After all, this kind of farming needs lots of artificial light for the centre of the building. You can explore this idea further at his web site, where there's a collection of designs that could deliver such vertical farms. There's even a proposal for a 38-storey Sky Farm in Toronto's theatre district, shown at the right.

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