Vertical farms

An industrial farm can be built inside a megalopolis in form of a skyscraper or hidden underground

According to the demographic report of the United Nations organization,1 the human population will increase by the number of 2 to 3,5 billion people until 2050. An estimated billion hectares of new agricultural land (think of yet another Canada, but with a mild climate) will be needed to grow enough food to feed such a number of people, if the today's farming practices continue to be applied. Further enlargements of the cultivated area are either not cost effective due to climatic conditions and remoteness from the consumer or fraught with environmental problems. This problem of the future needs to be solved already today. Part of the solution might be moving the agricultural production closer to end consumers, perhaps even right into the cities. This idea has given a start to The Vertical Farm project2 lead by  Dr. Dickson Despommier, a scientist of the Columbia University (NY).

Imagine dozens of floors filled with hydroponic greenhouses and compartments for livestock. All of the facilities are automated and have artificial lighting using highly efficient light sources such as LEDs, and partial electric self-sufficiency. The energy for this house may be produced by wind turbines on the roof and methane tanks in the basement, with a system of recycling organic waste into biogas.

Such a vertical farm can be built even inside a megapolis. An advatage of such a placement is closeness to customers, with massive savings on transportation costs and reduced emissions of harmful substances in the air. Among further benefits would be weather independence, with a possibility of getting several several harvests per year, and a high degree of isolation, in order to protect the plants them from infections and various pests which affect the fields. The farm building can be completely self-contained, hosting various services for plant and animal care, harvesting and quality control for the biological products, and all this on a tiny piece of land, due to the multifloor architecture.

The second, and no less important point of vertical farming is a smart way of land usage, preventing the massive degradation and fatigue and the intensive desertification of agricultural resources. The land can be used for planting forests, which would allow it to rest while fighting the notorious problem of excessive emission of greenhouse gases.

Any water settlement, like the projects "Seasteading" or "Blueseed", could benefit from a vertical farm

Of course, building such a farm would require a lot of research in several areas: hydroponics, architecture, microbiology, plant and animal genetics, waste disposal, energy. But the goal is well worth effort, Dr.  Despommier is convinced. Calculations show that a 30 floor farm, which occupies a quarter,  would be able to provide for a full year demand of food for 10 thousand people. And this is by the current level of technology, which can already cater for main ingredients of a vertical farm.

So, let us see how long will it take before one will be able to pick fresh fruits and vegetables in the home city, no matter how big it is. We bet it is a matter of decade or two.

General arrangement and equipment of a vertical farm

Sources

1. United Nations Report "World Population to 2300"

2. The Vertical Farm project by Dr. Dickson Despommier of Columbia University in the City of New York