medium green, combines her enthusiasm for communicating about the green industry, with a deep appreciation for all things gardening. Her blogs provide information from the homeowner’s perspective, moving between what works now and what the future might hold.Michele, a self-proclaimed
The world is adding approximately 78 million more people every year, and according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and NASA the earth will increase by three billion people by 2050. When applying this to food production, the planet will need additional land the size of Brazil to feed the population swell. To meet this demand for food, Dr. Dickson Despommier, a leading expert on vertical farming from Columbia University, and Swedish firm Plantagon International believe vertical farming is the answer.
Vertical farming takes biomimicry to new heights as food is grown vertically inside 177-foot, multi-level urban buildings rather than on sprawling farmland. The vertical farm would house a conveyor belt that would carry produce from seedlings until full maturity, ready for harvest. With one indoor acre equaling 4-6 outdoor acres or more, depending upon the crop, one vertical farm could be fit into two or three average city lots of 2.5 acres.
With Western New York’s healthy supply of over 10,000 vacant city lots and its share of unoccupied urban buildings, vertical farming would be a good fit. According to Pierre Wallender, Plantagon’s U.S. spokesman, Buffalo’s abandoned grain elevators, the Central Terminal or the Broadway Market would be ideal sites for a vertical farm. There is also a regional connection to vertical farming with the Onondaga Nation in Syracuse owning 85 percent of Plantagon.
Advantages of Vertical Farming
- Living in the northeast, weather dictates the growing seasons. A vertical farm has no connection to weather patterns. Crops are spared from early frosts in the spring or 90 degree readings in June. There would be no more praying for rain, sunshine, or moderate temperatures. The vertical farm controls the temperature, humidity, and light.
- According to the USDA, 70 percent of all available freshwater on earth is used for irrigation, and the rest returns to rivers and streams. The runoff of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers destroys everything in its path. With vertical farming, the water would be cleaned and recirculated.
- FAO said in its 2011 State of Food Insecurity in the World report that the simple solution to restoring the ecosystem is to leave it alone. Moving farming indoors would go a long way to bring back the natural world.
- As I mentioned above, vertical farming would be void of chemicals, and instead utilize hydroponics and aeroponics. When hydroponics and aeroponics work together, these technologies can use 70 to 95 percent less water. Hydroponics, developed in 1937, is essentially putting seeds in water to germinate and sprout roots before they are put into potting soil. Aeroponics, invented in 1982, is a mist of water and nutrients sprayed on the roots of the plant, giving it all it needs to grow.
- The vertical farm would be designed with the same technologies as an intensive care unit in a hospital, ensuring food safety and security. Workers would be screened for infections, and the secure building would also keep insects and microbial pathogens out.
- Buy local helps to reduce food miles. The vertical farm would reside inside the city limits and provide a sustainable source of food to residents, restaurants, schools, hospitals, businesses, etc.
- So what about the displaced farmers? The vertical farm would still need farmers for the nursery, planting, monitoring, harvesting, sorting and selling, and for crops not in the vertical farm. Wallender said a vertical farm would create 30 to 50 jobs.
The advantages made sense for Sweden as it is already onboard with the first vertical greenhouse, currently under construction in the city of Linköping. Does vertical farming make sense for Western New York? Why can’t the region be the first in the United States to take a step into the future? Where would you put a vertical farm?