Using vertical space to grow food is a fabulous way of efficiently using space and increasing yeilds per acre. However, currently space is not the limiting factor in food production; rather, it is nutrients (which we supplement with synthetic fertilizers produced from natural gas) and water (which we currently mine from aquifers and divert from rivers to the point where the rivers sometimes no longer reach the ocean). I am not sure vertical farming in and of itself solves these issues. Additional techniques, such as using fish or ducks to fertilize the water and to continually cycle the water in a closed loop system would decrease the amount of non renewable resource utilized in food production. However, other factors would then likely present themselves as limits to human population growth:fossil fuels required for transportation of people and resources (including food and water), disease from living in such dense population, energy for heat and electricity, fresh water sources.
Yes, vertical farms will most likely become popular soon when we can not support the Earth’s growing population. It has numerous advantages compared to traditional farming, but currently it is still an expensive way of farming. On the other hand this is a new way to approach the problem and it might actually pay off to invest in these.
I am not convinced that vertical farming is really viable, for two reasons. First, it’s extremely energy-intensive. A “farmscraper” located in a dense urban area in the northern US or Europe, for example, would need to be completely enclosed in order to protect crops from the elements, and to grow the plants you’ll need to keep them at a stable temperature which means large amounts of power generation. There’s also the problem of getting light to portions of the building that may not receive natural light. Second, to date I am not aware of any studies having been done regarding the economic viability of vertical farming. The technology is there and pilot projects are being done, especially in Britain, but whether or not vertical farming is a feasible option for feeding large numbers of people is I think a question without an answer at this time.
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