Thursday, May 6, 2010

Vertical Farms: Good, Bad, or TBD?

One of those topics that’s pretty hot right now is urban agriculture, particularly vertical farms. We’ve talked a little bit about some vertical farm plans for Dubai (how 2009!) and also about vertical gardening and green walls, but haven't spent much time on the pros and cons.

In case you’re not familiar, the concept of the vertical farm is based on the idea of growing food where the people are, in the city. Essentially, vertical farms are large-scale high rise buildings (“farmscrapers”) that function as greenhouses.

Widely held thoughts on the advantages of vertical farming include:

  • Reduced transportation costs (food is where the people are already)
  • No need for new farmland (with the growing population of the world, it is predicted that significantly more land will be required to grow enough food using traditional farming techniques)
  • Increased production (indoor farming means that some crops can be grown locally year-round)
  • Protection from weather-related problems (no more floods or droughts)
  • Conservation of resources (no more deforestation, easy-ish to recycle/reuse water)

Most of the articles I read expound on the virtues of vertical farming – but very few hit on the potential drawbacks and obstacles. I ran across an article today via Planetizen: Why Planting Farms in Skyscrapers Won't Solve Our Food Problems. This article offers plenty of criticism for the concept:

  • Not enough exposed horizontal surfaces to provide enough food for the urban population
  • Too much dependence on industrial inputs for success (denies plants sunlight in lieu of electric/artificial light)
  • Amount of energy required to provide artificial light and climate control is enormous
  • Hauling materials up and down a skyscraper will be burdensome
  • Pests and pathogens cannot be truly eliminated in a vertical farm
  • And, of course, my favorite, that proponents of vertical farming have failed to consider Murphy’s law (which does tend to govern my life)

Some resources if you’re interested in learning more:

Image Source: World Changing Seattle


Rebecca said...

Interesting article. A friend of mine manages the DOT building down by Nats stadium which has a roof top garden -- some sort of funky grass which is supposed to be great for insulation and keeps water run off. I support the idea of those things -- bearing food or not -- it does a good thing more O2 in the air with no additional resources (they don't water or treat it).

small business credit card processing said...

This article is quite interesting.Is this project will be pursued?

costa rica vacation said...

Thanks for the related links below.Highly appreciated.

East Tennessee Hazardous Materials Managers said...

I love the idea of vertical farms.The advantages will surely helps us in the future.

most affordable host said...

If this project will be a success.Our future will surely prosper.

bioplast said...

I support this project.As a future biology teacher,I wish this a success.Think for our future guys.

youth ministries said...

I hope we can also have a vertical farms here in my place.I love the concept of this project.

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