14 November 2007

Building Farms Up--Using the Third Dimension to Solve Two+ Problems at Once

By the year 2050, nearly 80% of the earth's population will reside in urban centers. Applying the most conservative estimates to current demographic trends, the human population will increase by about 3 billion people during the interim. An estimated 109 hectares of new land (about 20% more land than is represented by the country of Brazil) will be needed to grow enough food to feed them, if traditional farming practices continue as they are practiced today. At present, throughout the world, over 80% of the land that is suitable for raising crops is in use (sources: FAO and NASA).
Vertical Farm

By building "high-rise farms" we solve the problem of the shortage of agricultural land--AND--by building these farms inside urban areas and just outside the urban perimeter, transportation costs of bringing crops to market are slashed appreciably. The food will be fresher as well.

If only a portion of a high-rise was dedicated to hydroponic and aeroponic agriculture, the building would be able to process its waste water - as well as waste water from elsewhere on the utility grid - using it to water the plants AND to reuse as drinking water. Here’s how: The grey water extracted from sewage would be subjected to biological and mechanical filtration, then it would be used to water the plants. The plants, in turn, would transpirate heavily in the indoor environment, and dehumidifiers would harvest this water - this transpirated water would be pristine drinking water, able to be pumped back upstairs or into the utility grid for reuse. This concept of using transpiration from plants in a commercial high-rise agricultural operation to provide the last mile of grey water purification in the urban environment is revolutionary. Along with the surprisingly low, and dropping, cost of desalination, and advances being made in primary sewage treatment, this innovation could SOLVE the issues of potential water scarcity in the urban environment.

But there are even more advantages to "vertical farming" than these three.
  • Year-round crop production; 1 indoor acre is equivalent to 4-6 outdoor acres or more, depending upon the crop (e.g., strawberries: 1 indoor acre = 30 outdoor acres)
  • No weather-related crop failures due to droughts, floods, pests
  • All VF food is grown organically: no herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers
  • VF virtually eliminates agricultural runoff by recycling black water
  • VF returns farmland to nature, restoring ecosystem functions and services
  • VF greatly reduces the incidence of many infectious diseases that are acquired at the agricultural interface
  • VF converts black and gray water into potable water by collecting the water of transpiration
  • VF adds energy back to the grid via methane generation from composting non-edible parts of plants and animals
  • VF dramatically reduces fossil fuel use (no tractors, plows, shipping.)
  • VF converts abandoned urban properties into food production centers
  • VF creates sustainable environments for urban centers
  • VF creates new employment opportunities
  • We cannot go to the moon, Mars, or beyond without first learning to farm indoors on Earth
Vertical Farm

Aeroponic farming methods may hold the greatest promise for liberating farming from rural countryside. Aeroponic farming can be quite economical as the economies of scale and innovation come into play.

Finally, vertical urban farming frees up more land for recreation, animal reserves, and biofuel cultivation.

Thanks to EcoWorld

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Blogger Unknown said...

Seems perfect, too good to be true.

Friday, 16 November, 2007  
Blogger neil craig said...

Surely only of use for livestock since growing plants need sunlight. Gm may provide greater ability to turn sulight, air & water into protein. I would also suggest the Aquarius floating islands groing algae from nutrient rich bottom water might be easier.

Monday, 19 November, 2007  
Blogger al fin said...

Economics will sort it out. It takes resources to build a high-rise farm, and more resources to run one. If the economic advantages of vertical farms can make them profitable, they will happen.

One possible approach might be a "garden coop/condo" approach--where individual "farmers" buy into an aggie high rise for the chance to grow their own food--so they know exactly what they are eating. Like "community gardening" except above street level.

Friday, 23 November, 2007  
Blogger Snake Oil Baron said...

There are ways to design indoor spaces to maximize the natural light getting in. When you look at functioning offices, they are so very closed in for specific operational requirements. If you look at one that has all its dividers stripped out for renovations they can be quite open and spacious and you realize how big the windows really are. You can also have optical fibers connected to rooftop collectors transferring natural light to growing spaces and solar cell canopies covering the parking lot.

Another benefit for indoor farming is that you could devise a system to raise the CO2 and and air pressure when no one is in the growing areas. With a little automation you could minimize the time humans need to be in with the plants. I have heard that altering the air properties in this way can have significant increases in yields and that some greenhouses are experimenting with the idea. It would add to the energy requirement but the amount you would save by producing the crop closer to the consumer might make it well worth it.

Saturday, 01 December, 2007  

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