Vertical Farming: What is it? This is the method of agriculture that has been proposed by Professor Dickson Despommier from Columbia University. He feels that there is a great need for inner city blocks to have their own immediate source of food where plants will be grown without soil, by means of aeroponics and hydroponics within buildings already known as “farmscrapers”.
With the over-population of the world ever increasing, and water and land being a finite source, alternative options are being sought for feeding the masses, yet minimizing land use. How are we going to continue to feed and house everyone? If we need more land for housing, then farmlands and forests will shrink. And yet, one needs that farmland to feed the masses, and the forests to produce oxygen and to sustain other life forms that are all part of the ecology. So it seemed like a catch-22 situation until someone came up with the brilliant idea, or so it seems on the surface, of having city blocks of concrete and glass where you will be able to farm fish, poultry, pigs, fruit and vegetables all in a controlled environment. So what are the benefits of all of this? these advantages explained by MicroLabFarms.com
Well, those who support this idea, believe that it is a far better way of producing crops and that there are more benefits than conventional farming. They claim that it is more efficient. How so? Well, all produce will be grown organically, with no pesticides and insecticides, as being in a controlled environment there are no insects and pests that can attack the plants.
Another benefit of some consideration is that the crops will be further protected from inclement weather, and therefore less crops will be lost to hurricanes, hail, drought and snap freezes, because the temperatures within these vertical farms will be set at ambient temperatures. With global weather patterns becoming more unpredictable, and with global warming being a huge problem, vertical farming sounds like a solid option.
A further benefit is seen in the fact that having farms like these within the inner cities, the carbon footprint in miles of food transportation will be reduced, because the crops and produce are already there, within easy access to those who need them. Because they are able to recycle and use black water in their irrigation systems this is a further benefit to conserving drinking water, which is becoming more and more a resource of scarcity. Considering how important water is for life in general, vertical farming seems to be the answer for a serious problem that many starving nations now face due to drought and lack of drinking water. In addition, with the plants being grown in these huge vertical greenhouses, the transpiration that will occur naturally will be harnessed and reused again for irrigation. Considering that conventional farming uses 70% of the world’s drinkable water, and much of that is polluted by fertilizers and pesticides, this seems to be one of the greatest benefits.
However, those are the benefits, what are some of the negative aspects that have not been mentioned? Well, pollination is something that needs serious consideration. Insects are crucial to this process. So if this is going to be an insect-free environment, pollination will have to be done by hand, which is labour-intensive, and will this result in the produce costing more? And talking about costs, we all know that urban land is far more expensive that farm land, and the cost of creating such a concept and powering up a farmscraper for lights, controlling ambient temperatures and the like, will not be a cheap exercise. So just how much will this produce cost the consumer? It sounds as if it would cost them far more than what they could expect to pay for conventionally grown food. Controlling the environment within these buildings with regards to lighting, temperature, pollination and the arrangement of plants will all be important factors for success.