Small-space gardeners with only a deck and patio have been told for years to utilize the vertical space above beds and planters for growing more plants. Now Dickson Despommier, professor of environmental health at Columbia University in New York, wants to take the concept a step further and create vertical farms to grow food in urban areas. In 50 years, 80 percent of the world population is expected to live in cities. Instead of creating more farmland that destroys natural ecosystems to feed this population, Despommier wants to construct skyscrapers that can grow food to feed these urbanites and reduce global warming.
Despommier has been working for six years to marry sustainable building design with growing food in urban areas. Through the use of high-tech architecture, engineering, and agricultural science, he expects to be developing skyscrapers for growing food in a city within 10 years. For example, Despommier believes that 150, 300-foot-tall sky farms could feed the entire city of New York in the future. These vertical farms could also reduce the use of fossil fuels and global warming since food no longer would need to be shipped into urban areas. This would allow farmland to return to forests, which trap carbon. Each tower would feature self-sustaining solar panels, wind spires, wastewater recycling, animals and plants, and a recycling processor turning waste organic matter into fuel. Despommier is currently looking for funding to build prototypes of the vertical farm.
For more on these vertical farms of the future, go to: Vertical Farms.
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Article published on June 23, 2008.