Mike the Mad Biologist

More on Vertical Farming

I’ve written about urban-based, vertical farming before. I recently stumbled across this website, The Vertical Farm, that describes vertical farming some more. It also has cool pictures like this:

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(click here to embiggen)

I have no idea if this could work, and I don’t think farming within cities is a good use of land (except maybe in former industrial areas–the revitalization of Detroit and Flint?). I’m also always suspicious that this resembles those “City of the Future” dioramas, which look really cool, but are utterly impractical.

Still, the pictures are neato.

Comments

  1. #1 Joshua
    March 10, 2009

    I doubt vertical farming in that style will ever catch on. Space in cities is just too valuable for other uses (residential, commercial, etc.) for it to be reasonable.

    However, I do like the idea of supplemental farming in residential areas. Growing herbs and tomatoes and whatnot, not as a primary food source, but in addition to the stuff that’s shipped in from industrial farms. If vertical farming has a future, it’ll be in residential buildings with atriums and gardens, rather than monolithic farm structures.

  2. #2 D. C. Sessions
    March 10, 2009

    Pyramids aren’t very practical, but cultivating the tops of buildings is Going To Happen. It’s already becoming trendy for other reasons. As a source of food it’s not all that wonderful, but considering the price of fresh produce in the USA there’s no reason a roof garden couldn’t be cost-effective at least when you include the savings on cooling costs for warm climates.

  3. #3 Toaster
    March 10, 2009

    Close the loop!

    A vertical farm on land is kinda silly because it 1) eats up valuable urban real estate space and 2) would require massive amounts of water. Instead, build vertical farms in the sea, or at least in lakes.

    1) Fish farm on the bottom. Collect fish water, which will be laden with fish poop — an excellent fertilizer full of nitrogen and phosphates. This turns out meat and provides nutrient-enriched water for hydroponics.

    2) If it’s in the sea, run the fish waste through a couple of algae tanks. Algae is quite edible, but not very tasty. It can be used for processed foods or nutritive additives. This will use up a lot of the fertilizer, but also add more (algae pieces). Probably a good idea to sonicate the water after algae has been in it to prevent algal blooms in the hydroponic tanks.

    3) Desalination if in the sea.

    4) Water to hydroponics. Corn isn’t good to grow this way, but wheat, oats, and plenty of other annual vegetables would work.

    5) Have a large (~20m) parabolic mirror on roof to focus sunlight into a series of sheathed fiber optic cables to channel light to where it’s needed.

    6) Only use transparent wall material if it is thermally tight and doesn’t leak heat everywhere, or else you’ll spend far more energy heating the facility during cold seasons than it generates in food calories.

  4. #4 ShortWoman
    March 10, 2009

    Over a year ago, I read this story about a vertical farm to be built in Vegas. Obviously it wouldn’t be built on the priciest land, but rather in an outlying area. I think it makes sense to have a closed environment when you’re trying to grow lots of food in the middle of the desert.

  5. #5 Mathieu
    March 10, 2009

    I wonder how much energy would be needed to raise all that soil up and down – more important, from where this soil will come from? Someone needs to do some real math here and see if is it really that sustainable.

  6. #6 Jeffrey
    March 12, 2009

    My immediate concern is whether it’s really worth it to build such an enormous facility to grow what could probably be grown in a conventional farm. I know that the local food movement is probably a part of it, but given that local food isn’t necessarily very efficient, I’m skeptical.

  7. #7 Joe
    March 31, 2009

    Most of it will be hydroponically grown. So there is no need for soil.