I am not aware of any federal money specifically dedicated toward vertical farming projects, though it is possible that federal money dedicated to environmental research grants may be indirectly funding some of the initial studies on the project. Vertical farming is a relatively new idea, first brought forward in 1999 by Dickson Despommier, a Columbia University professor. A few basic studies have been done since then regarding methods of vertical farming, but none have actually made it off the drawing board. There are several problems with vertical farming. For one, so far as we know it would be extremely energy-intensive, requiring vast amounts of power to keep vertical “farmscrapers” temperature-controlled and illuminated (at night or for those sections that don’t receive natural sunlight). Also, many staple crops such as wheat, rice and corn–which are the basis of most of the world’s food supplies–cannot be grown in this method. To date no studies have been done to test whether vertical farming is economically feasible. Nonetheless, the idea is gaining adherents and plans are afoot to create some prototype vertical farms to determine whether the idea is worth pursuing.
Personally I think devoting federal money to the idea is premature at this stage. If and when the proponents of vertical farming can demonstrate that their idea is economically and environmentally feasible, I think it’s worth diverting some R&D dollars to making it happen. I would say we’re at least ten years away from that point, however, if not more.
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