Imagine a situation where 100% of the fresh fruits and vegetables for an entire urban population are grown inside climate-controlled towers right in the city itself. Dr. Dickson Despommier was on this past week's episode of Good Food to tell us this science fiction may be a reality sooner than we think!
Despommier and his graduate students at Columbia University have been working on the Vertical Farm Project for the past ten years, and their labors are starting to come to fruition. They have designed several models for vertical farms that would be housed within glass buildings - essentially very large and high-tech green houses.
The advantages to such a system are numerous. These buildings would provide a year-round growing season and the issue of transporting fresh food to urban centers over long distances would become moot. Vertical farms would also suffer fewer affects from weather, insects, and disease. On the other end of things, all the acres of land currently being used for farming could return to their natural states as forests and prairies.
This model is ideal for places that don't physically have a lot of land, like islands and large cities, or places lacking in arable land. Holland and China are two countries currently looking into vertical farming systems. Despommier also mentions that small-scale vertical farms could be established within existing buildings and could provide food for places like hospitals, restaurants, and schools.
And get this: Despommier says that the first actual, physical vertical farming systems are only two years or so away!
Could this be the future of farming? What do you think?
• Listen to Evan Kleiman's full interview with Dr. Dickson Despommier on the Good Food website.
• Also, check out Dr. Despommier's website for the Vertical Farm Project for more designs, essays, and related information.
Related: Conscientious Cook: Sustainable Seafood through Urban Aquaculture
(Image: Eric Ellingsen and Dickson Despommier)