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Farms of the Sky

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In the urban metropolis, a small patch of rooftop garden is often the closest you can get to green landscape. But what if skyscraper roofs held not just geranium patches and brick patios, but full-scale farms that produced fruit and veggies year-round, generated clean energy, and purified wastewater?

Six years ago, Columbia University professor of environmental sciences and microbiology Dickson Despommier came up with a concept he calls “vertical farming” to alleviate the growing demand for farmland.

As the world gets warmer and more populated, Despommier says, we’ll need to curb the standard practice of “horizontal” farming so that farmland can be converted to carbon-absorbing forests. If horizontal farming continues, he says, then by the year 2050, an area 120% of the size of Brazil will be needed to feed the extra 3 billion people living on earth. Almost all of the world’s arable land, however, is already being farmed.

But is the vertical farm a feasible solution, or just an eco-architectural novelty? Despommier recently told New York Magazine that a cluster of 150 towers of 30 stories apiece producing fruit, vegetables, and could feed the entire city of New York for a year.

With a price tag of at least $200 million, the first vertical farm will probably be developed only at the whim of a wealthy philanthropist. Nevertheless, Despommier thinks the world will see its first sky farm within 15 years.

(Hat tip, BLDGBLOG)

(Image courtesy of Chris Jacobs, VerticalFarm)

Comments

  1. #1 chezjake
    April 23, 2007

    “If horizontal farming continues, he says, then by the year 2050, an estimated 109 hectares of new land—an area 120% of the size of Brazil—will be needed to feed the extra 3 billion people living on earth.”

    Something wrong with that 109 hectares figure. 1 hectare is only .00386 square miles. It should be 10^9 hectares.

  2. #2 Virginia Hughes
    April 24, 2007

    Thanks, chezjake; it’s been changed now.