Friday, September 07, 2007

An Idea Whose Time Has Come?

It's a concept known as vertical farming, the brainchild of Dr. Dickson Despommier, a professor of environmental sciences and microbiology at Columbia University.
Imagine a cluster of 30-story towers on Governors Island or in Hudson Yards producing fruit, vegetables, and grains while also generating clean energy and purifying wastewater. Roughly 150 such buildings, Despommier estimates, could feed the entire city of New York for a year. Using current green building systems, a vertical farm could be self-sustaining and even produce a net output of clean water and energy.

Despommier began developing the vertical-farming concept six years ago (his research can be found at, and he has been contacted by scientists and venture capitalists from the Netherlands to Dubai who are interested in establishing a Center for Urban Sustainable Agriculture, either independently or within Columbia. He estimates it could take a working group of agricultural economists, architects, engineers, agronomists, and urban planners five to ten years to figure out how to marry high-tech agricultural practices with the latest sustainable building technology.
I want to do some more reading on this subject, but at first glance I can find only benefits to such forward thinking. I am in favor of the "less pollution" approach to the environment and conservation, but those of you who belong to the CGW (Church of Global Warming /climate change) should also find this idea appealing.
...The professor believes that only by allowing significant portions of the Earth’s farmland to return to forest do we have a real chance of stabilizing climate and weather patterns. Merely reducing energy consumption—the centerpiece of the proposal Al Gore recently presented to Congress—will at best slow global warming. Allowing forests to regrow where crops are now cultivated, he believes, would reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as least as much as more-efficient energy consumption.
Also, with most of the population living in the large urban sprawls across the planet, doesn't it make sense to grow the food where those people live? That would greatly reduce the pollution costs associated with transporting and distributing goods for sale, what the CGW calls "carbon miles," and would still leave a niche for the traditional farmer to make a living selling his crops in the rural areas, which does not preclude him from employing the vertical farming method:
Depending on the crops being grown, a single vertical farm could allow thousands of farmland acres to be permanently reforested. For the moment, these calculations remain highly speculative, but a real-life example offers a clue: After a strawberry farm in Florida was wiped out by Hurricane Andrew, the owners built a hydroponic farm. By growing strawberries indoors and stacking layers on top of each other, they now produce on one acre of land what used to require 30 acres.
...or revolutionizing traditional farming by using robots instead of (in the US, anyway) third world indentured slaves from Mexico to pick their crops (how are you going to deal with that, you open-borders, liberal whackos?). More benefits:
...Growing crops in a controlled environment has benefits: no animals to transfer disease through untreated waste; no massive crop failures as a result of weather-related disasters; less likelihood of genetically modified “rogue” strains entering the “natural” plant world. All food could be grown organically, without herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers, eliminating agricultural runoff. And 80 percent of the world’s population will be living in urban areas by 2050. Cities already have the density and infrastructure needed to support vertical farms, and super-green skyscrapers could supply not just food but energy, creating a truly self-sustaining environment.
I see this as a common sense, win-win approach to solving real-world problems through innovation and technology, yet I'm sure that hardcore greenies and the CGW will object, if for no other reason than it would deny them many opportunities to despotically regulate economic production and reach deeper into our pockets for more confiscatory taxes, which is what they really want while they sell us the ruse of "saving the planet." I suppose they could always fall back on the Marxist mantra of "displacing and disenfranchising" a whole segment of the labor force, denying their "rights" to employment.

Hat-tips: Urban Grind and Vilmar


Blogger Oldcatman said...

Growing INSIDE has always been a good

THINGS grow better, faster, cleaner, etc......


3:09 AM GMT+12  
Blogger Joe Ramen said...

OCM, when I saw this link from Vilmar at Lisa's I thought it was just fantastic for all the reasons I laid out in my post. It uses technology in a positive way, and it just seems to make sense, a "win-win" for all from the small, independent farmer, to the large, "corporate" farms, and everybody in between. It seems a lot more common sense than the reactionary hysteria promoted by Al Gore and his "Eeeeeek! The sky is falling!" types. It represents the positive, problem-solving human spirit rather than the helpless victim mentality that runs like a cancer through mankind these days.

8:30 AM GMT+12  
Anonymous American Daughter said...

Amazing. This is what I love about the "global conversation" on the blogs. I probably would not have discovered this in my own reading, but you discovered it for me!

What a rich and varied world we live in! The info sharing on the blogs brings it home.

3:26 PM GMT+12  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home