Professor Dickson Despommier wanted to invigorate his students. Bored listening to lectures on environmental degradation and food insecurities, the students wished to learn about innovative solutions. Despommier agreed and presented them with a theoretical challenge to design farms within the city that could feed 50,000 residents. The city barely had any reasonable open farming spaces and students needed to think creatively. They discussed a lot of options and then the Eureka!: “What about farming inside the buildings?” This mere class discussion at Columbia University in the year 1999 turned out to be Despommier and his grad student’s decade long research mission that is about to transform the global scenario in urban agriculture.
"A captivating argument that will intrigue generell readers and give policy makes and investors much to ponder"
- Kirkus reviews
"Persuasive...Given Dr. Despommier's scientific background we might expect this book to be a dry recitation of facts and figueres, but nothing could be further from the case. Despommier writes passionately and argues, at times, even stridently."
- The New York Journal of Books
Buy book: Blackwells
A GATEway INTO A NEW ERA
Vertical farming is an advanced indoor system of urban farming that modifies buildings and skyscrapers into technologically adept structures of stacked layers where environmental conditions are artificially monitored for farming. The layers are engineered to circulate mineral-rich water, pathogen-free air, and nutrition-rich solutions at an optimum temperature regardless of the outdoor environment. The worsening environmental conditions have crumbled the existing agricultural system. Changing weather patterns and disastrous climate events are becoming a new normal that regularly wreaks havoc across the globe. What’s more, cities are flooding with people and the blistering pace of global population rise is projected to reach 9.5 billion in the 2050s. That is simply too many mouths to feed. We can’t keep on relying on traditional farms at a distance as the costs of crop transportation have become burdensome both financially and environmentally. As Despommier suggested, it’s time that we must seek innovative solutions before the world’s hungriest come knocking for a glass of clean water and a plate of disease-free rice and beans.
OPEN FIELD PRODUCTION VS VERTICAL FARMING
Amidst all these environmental challenges, vertical farming offers hope. An acre of production within the vertical farm is equivalent to ten (or more) acres of traditional outdoor farming. And the crops are harvested year-round without the need to wait for the arrival of seasons. People may portray it as an overhyped costly space-age technology, but it’s actually not the case. In fact, all the resources that it needs actually exist at our disposal. The farms use LED-based lighting, automated irrigation, pathogen control mechanism, and nutrient supply systems.
Two of the most commonly employed techniques within this system include hydroponics and aeroponics. Both function as soilless culture techniques with systems to regulate the efficient use of resources. In its early days, vertical farms were mainly based on hydroponic culture in which plant roots within the stacked layers are submerged in recycling nutrient-rich water solutions.Aeroponics, on the other hand, is a recent advancement from NASA’s space research program which were originally tested for farming in low gravity. It uses sprayers and misters to deliver nutrient-filled smog to plant roots. The system uses 95% less water than the traditional system of farming. New Jersey-based AeroFarms, the biggest and earliest investors in Vertical Farming, uses aeroponics technology to yield 1.7 million pounds of greens every year.
From America’s high-tech “Aerofarm'' to Europe’s biggest “Nordic Harvest”, Kuala Lumpur's promising “The Vegetable Co.” to UAE’s thriving “Badia Farm”, even Kenya’s locally designed “Sack farming” to Australia’s booming “Stacked Farm”, vertical farms are taking over the globe by storm. It's market worth is projected to reach $6.4 billion by the year 2023. And Dispommier, now in his early 80s, is pleased to see this rapidity in its development. “Originating from a class discussion to see where it has come in the last couple of decades; it's truly remarkable” he said.
Can farmers grow money
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