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Vertical Farming Set to Revolutionize Agriculture Featured

This is the future of food production. This is the future of food production.


Attempts to modernize the rickety machine that is present day farming has only caused us to stray deeper into an abyss of revamped pesticide formulas, genetic modifications and chemical treatments.

Farming is due for an update and the high tech revolution is here to help.

With hydroponics set to resolve hard-hitting issues such as food security, deforestation for farmland, excessive resource consumption and our dependency on pesticides, the opportunity looms to step into the future and harmonize technology with modern day food production in order to save what is left of our natural world from development.

Dr. Dickson Despommier, Columbia University's Professor of Public Health in Environmental Health Sciences, believes that hydroponics is not only the next logical step in a true modernization of agriculture, but key to reducing carbon in the atmosphere and revitalizing an industry that is becoming a virtual dead end for small producers.

By 2050, over 80% of the world's population is expected to live in urban centers and the demand for farmland will inevitably spike.

Dr. Despommier is dedicated to promoting a new system of hydroponics called vertical farming, a radical take on indoor food production that means converting tiered buildings, including skyscrapers, into multi-level hydroponic farms inside urban centers.

While the professor has been championing the concept for the past 14 years, he is far from the first. Vertical farming materialized in a 1909 edition of Life Magazine and since then has popped up across the globe, from Japan's vegetable "factories" to John Edel's urban farm in Chicago. Meanwhile China, Dubai, France, and Canada eye hydroponic homesteads for their own countries.

By 2050, over 80% of the world's population is expected to live in urban centers and the demand for farmland will inevitably spike.

Vertical farming is poised to bring agriculture back to urban populations, reviving the connection between the public and what they eat, all while producing food locally.

Proponents such as Dr. Despommier say that food manufactured hydroponically in skyscrapers or factories will lessen the need to develop rural areas and shift our focus instead to unused urban spaces suitable for farming. Since hydroponic yields are greater per acre than traditional farming and are not affected by seasonality, vertical food production could make farming a profitable venture again, one particularly viable for urban businesses.

Although critics are quick to denounce the environmental impacts of stacked growing, many vertical farmers are looking for ways to minimize their carbon footprint.

Low energy LED lights are common place in the industry, if not standard, and reduce energy consumption by as much as 80%.

Anaerobic digesters, which use anaerobic bacteria to compost organic material, are also becoming an essential part of vertical farms since they can convert waste from facilities as well as from neighboring businesses into biogas to be used as fuel.

Rainwater collection and geothermal energy are also widely promoted.

One thing of particular importance to Dr. Despommier is that vertical farms are used in context. For areas without the infrastructure to support farming skyscrapers, the idea would certainly be a no-go. However, for most industrialized countries, Dr. Despommier believes that "vertical farming is not only viable, but invaluable." As the industrialization of agriculture challenges our resourcefulness as a species, let's hope that cities across the globe give vertical farming its due chance.

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Here’s Dr. Despommier giving a firsthand account of his ideas.
Last modified on Friday, 21 June 2013 19:59

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