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Farms Stacked On Farms

05/09/2011

When I first started becoming interested in environmental issues I came across a concept called vertical farming, which struck me as both incredibly cool and something I fervently hoped would be implemented soon.

Think greenhouses, skyscraper-sized.

Inside would be vast artificial fields used to grow crops and raise livestock, coupled with a complex irrigation system. The idea would be to build several of these structures in each city, producing food year-round and eliminating the need to import it from across the globe.

Greenhouse gas emissions would drop as a result, and much of existing farmland could be converted back into natural forests (also good news for the climate, since trees eat carbon dioxide). As well, the produce from vertical farms could be organic, since there would be zero exposure to wild parasites or insects.

These structures would provide their own energy. A giant solar panel would sit on top, and the farm’s waste would be burned in incinerators for fuel.

Of course, the energy required to operate a vertical farm would be enormous–especially one thirty stories, which is the lofty vision of Dr. Dickson Despommier, head of The Vertical Farm Project.

Critics also point to the manufacture and transportation of construction materials, soil and fertilizer as unsustainable aspects of the design.

Another pitfall is the difficulty of getting direct sunlight into the centre of the building. However, a Swedish-American company believes it has a design that will overcome this hurdle, called the Plantagon.

Many believe the challenges associated with vertical farming can be overcome, including engineers, architects, agriculturalists and others.

Many believe we must overcome them.

We are currently using nearly all Earth’s available farmland, the yield of which will be significantly reduced by climate change. The global population is projected to exceed 9 billion by 2050.

So it seems vertical farming isn’t just a neat idea for the distant future. It seems like it’s a necessary idea for right now.

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