Vertical Farm Building Towers in Our Cities
An innovative project where technology races against population growth and global warming changes.
The world is going to need vertical farms because conventional agriculture can’t handle what’s to come, Despommier says. By midcentury, the world is expected to add another 3 billion people, pushing its population close to 10 billion. Feeding all those extra mouths will require finding an area of agricultural land larger than Brazil – without cutting rain forests needed to stabilize the world’s climate.
Heading skyward, under the controlled conditions of an indoor greenhouse, has many advantages, Despommier says. “You can control nothing outdoors, and you can control everything indoors,” he says. That means no floods, wildfires, hailstorms, tornadoes, or droughts. Plant diseases and pests are more easily controlled, too, meaning less need for herbicides and pesticides.
Vertical farms, many stories high, will be situated in the heart of the world's urban centers. If successfully implemented, they offer the promise of urban renewal, sustainable production of a safe and varied food supply (year-round crop production), and the eventual repair of ecosystems that have been sacrificed for horizontal farming.
It took humans 10,000 years to learn how to grow most of the crops we now take for granted. Along the way, we despoiled most of the land we worked, often turning verdant, natural ecozones into semi-arid deserts. Within that same time frame, we evolved into an urban species, in which 60% of the human population now lives vertically in cities. This means that, for the majority, we humans are protected against the elements, yet we subject our food-bearing plants to the rigors of the great outdoors and can do no more than hope for a good weather year. However, more often than not now, due to a rapidly changing climate regime, that is not what follows. Massive floods, protracted droughts, class 4-5 hurricanes, and severe monsoons take their toll each year, destroying millions of tons of valuable crops.