Thread: Vertical Farms
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Old Posted Jan 22, 2011, 9:22 PM
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Cities alive!


- Today, almost every built environment suffers from its past and continues to encourage a worsening of the social diseases of “sprawlism.” There are, of course, numerous exceptions to this paradigm. Portland, Oregon is one of the most outstanding examples of an enlightened view of city growth in the United States. Many medieval cities throughout Europe that survived into modern times also have put severe constraints on expansion—Freiburg, Germany, for example. However, most cities, regardless of location, have the unfortunate prospect of not being able to control their patterns of growth, despite the presence of city-planning departments in most of them.

- What is needed, in my opinion, is a radical change in urban philosophy; one that is based on natural processes and mimics the best that nature has to offer with respect to balance. The balanced ecosystem is often referred to as a “closed loop” entity: everything the system needs to thrive—water, food, energy, et cetera—already exists within it (rather than being trucked in!) and is constantly recycled. I would encourage all city planners and developers to take a long, hard look into the ways in which ecosystems behave. It is the model for how we should be handling things like water management, energy utilization, and the recycling of waste into usable resources. In an ecosystem, assemblages of plants and animals are linked together by a common thread.

- To be truly sustainable, cities must also learn to produce at least a portion of their own food. Right now, the world devotes an area the size of South America to growing crops and raising livestock. At projected rates of population growth, we would need an additional area the size of Brazil by 2050, but that much arable land does not exist. I have championed vertical farming as a start, to allow cities to produce large quantities of food crops in multistory buildings. This would avoid the need to encroach even more on the natural world to make room for farms that, in the long haul, are destined to fail due to unavoidable climate change issues.

- The idea would be to take today’s indoor farming techniques—including aeroponics, hydroponics, and drip irrigation—and scale them up dramatically. The Vertical Farm Project estimates that a 30-story, 3 million-square-foot building could easily feed 10,000 city dwellers based on today’s technology. Such high-rise farms could provide a wide variety of produce and even poultry and pork. Since conditions could be controlled much more tightly than in traditional agriculture, we estimate that one acre of vertical farm space could produce as much as ten to twenty soil-based acres. If cities were suddenly able to produce their own food, the quality of life within them would improve dramatically.

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