Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Vertical Farm Project

In The Sustainability Challenge I made a case for future where humans lived almost entirely within self-sustained and ecologically isolated cities. The idea was that nature and humans could no longer survive together as humanity achieves a dominance beyond what nature can afford to bestow upon a single species. Isolating ourselves from nature will reduce our contribution to a mass extinction in nature, as well as insulate ourselves from being made extinct too.

A big step in this direction is cities striving for self-sustenance in their need for resources. Of all resources that a city uses, food is probably the most expensive.

The food for a city is usually grown in areas much bigger than the city itself. It is then brought to a city by land, sea and even air from across a huge hinterland which could span the globe.

Now consider a greenhouse - it makes very efficient use of existing resources like water, sunlight and nutrients. Now what if we could cram greenhouses in a city? The food is grown with minimal use of resources, and transportation costs are cut to negligible levels. Win win?

But how should a greenhouse that will feed an entire city be structured? Why, as a skyscraper of course.

Scientists are Columbia University are suggesting just such an approach, via The Vertical Farm Project:

"The idea is simple enough. Imagine a 30-storey building with glass walls, topped off with a huge solar panel. On each floor there would be giant planting beds, indoor fields in effect. There would be a sophisticated irrigation system. And so crops of all kinds and small livestock could all be grown in a controlled environment in the most urban of settings."

Some of the other advantages include:
"* Year round crop production in a controlled environment
* All produce would be organic as there would be no exposure to wild parasites and bugs
* Elimination of environmentally damaging agricultural runoff
* Food being produced locally to where it is consumed"

The Vertical Farm Project
Vertical farming in the big Apple