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Hi-Rise Apartment Buildings as Hydroponics Gardens?

Vertical farming may change the look of our cities Vertical farming may change the look of our cities

We’ve become accustomed to seeing tall skyscrapers in big cities, but can you imagine seeing a hi-rise transparent building that houses a farm? Since the beginning of time, agriculture has mainly been done in the wide open fields of rural farms. Unfortunately, with climate changes, loss of cultivatable land, and other factors, a major proportion of our earth’s food base is under threat.

Many individuals and organizations are constantly searching for answers to this perplexing problem, and Columbia University professor Dixon Despommier believes he and his students have developed a viable solution. Despommier, a professor of Environmental Health Sciences and Microbiology, and several of his graduate students have come up with the concept of “vertical farming.” The goal is to raise animals and grow crops in city skyscrapers. Is vertical farming a pipe dream? Or could this creative idea be the wave of the future?

Experts estimate by the year 2050 about 80% of the world’s population will live in cities. This is one of many reasons Despommier believes in the necessity of growing food inside. He asked his students to figure out what size building would be needed to feed 50,000 people a year – to which they responded: a 30-story hi-rise building as wide as 1 city block.

Despommier claims vertical farming could be the solution to many of our society’s current problems, such as overpopulation and food shortages. In an interview with Despommier, he talks about how the use of hydroponics – growing plants without soil – and decreasing the distance between producer and consumer could significantly reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Currently, one-fifth of fossil fuels are used for agriculture. This includes the fossil fuels used and carbon emissions produced trucking all that produce to markets, that are most often hundreds of miles away. Fossil fuels would play no role in vertical farming, thus reducing food costs and lessening pollution.

Thanks to hydroponics, vertical farming would produce a richer, more plentiful harvest protected from climate changes, pests, and parasites. Farming would also be less harmful to the land and our environment. Although this alternative to growing food has been met with mixed reviews, Scott Stringer, Manhattan Borough president, is extremely interested in the concept of vertical farming. He hopes to see hi-rise apartment buildings turned into hydroponic gardens in New York City. No doubt other environmentally-conscious officials will be equally enthusiastic and supportive.

With hydroponics, we wouldn’t have to stop gardening when the weather turns cold. Our crops wouldn’t be subjected to the whims of the climate, or attacks from persistent pests. Vertical farming would allow more people to enjoy fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers, and other high-value crops. The University EXPO of 2015 could bring vertical farming into reality with Skyland, the first ever vertical farm. This innovative concept could very well be the future of agriculture – and the new face of our cities’ skylines.

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Dixon Despommier discusses the benefits of vertical farming
Last modified on Thursday, 20 September 2012 16:06

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