The idea of vertical farming has been around since 1999, when it was first proposed by Dickson Despommier, a professor of environmental sciences at Columbia University. The recent surge of interest in the idea is probably due to two related factors: first, a European company called Valcent Products introduced in October 2009 a product called VertiCrop, which is a sustainable vertical farming system, and that product was named by Time Magazine as one of the top inventions in the world for 2009. The attraction of vertical farming is that indoor farming, or large-scale “farmscrapers,” can in theory provide significant amounts of food with a limited amount of surface used, and in urban areas as well. With the increase in world population, more arable land is needed to provide food for them, and proponents of vertical farming claim their system is the answer to that issue, as well as reducing deforestation, extinction of species and sequestering large amounts of carbon in urban areas. There are critics, however. To date there has not been any real study done on whether vertical farming is cost-effective compared to traditional farming, and a major drawback is that “farmscrapers” would require vast amounts of power to keep crops growing year-round, which might negate the energy savings. Given its high visibility, especially online, I’m sure we’ll continue to hear more about vertical farming as time goes on.
As seanm pointed out the major drawback would be the large amounts of power needed to grow the crops year around. One way that people in favor of vertical farming are trying to solve this issue is to pair the vertical farms with renewable energy sources such as solar or wind. Maybe now that the Bloom Box is getting so much attention we could pair them with renewable energy sources with a Bloom Box to make up for the extra power needed. I am looking forward to seeing if these take off and how effective they will be.
Oddly enough, I think the main reason there is so much talk online about vertical farms lately is because they look so cool, and the internet is all about easy to consume content. Check out these graphical representations of vertical farms, they are all eye-candy:
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