By all honest accounts, 2010 has been a terrible year for traditional agriculture worldwide. Extended severe weather events have cut many crop harvests in half. Farmers are going bankrupt as crops fail, commodity prices are exploding, and millions of people more have been added to the list of those who go hungry on a regular basis. Already a record 40 million Americans are receiving food stamps at a time when the economy is a disaster and state and Federal governments are essentially bankrupt.
The near- to mid-term looks to be a time of immense hardship; yet, in times of hardship come great innovation as people are spurred from their complacency and forced to become participators in their own survival. There is an Organic Revolution taking place that is focused on self-sufficiency as the primary goal. Despite how power brokers have aimed to co-opt the movement, individuals must remain steadfast in their pursuit of living a simpler, healthier, and less-dependent lifestyle.
Our modern way of life is centered on mega-cities. This will continue, as the percentage of the global population living in, or very close to, major cities rises to 80%. It would make sense, then, that any new innovative farming system should begin here, as it will benefit the greatest number of people. Up until recently, Genetically Modified Foods have been the most prominent farming innovations, despite their obvious flaws. Now, two new farming methods show great promise for growing an abundance of healthy food on a small footprint of land, and may be instrumental in feeding a growing world population.
The first innovative way of creating food with a limited footprint by using the concept of the skyscraper in order to use plentiful vertical space to supply cities with organic produce. This new system is called Vertical Farming. According to Vertical Farming's founder, Dickson Despommier, a thirty-story building could feed 50,000 people. An estimated 165 of these "farmscrapers" would feed all of New York City -- each building with the footprint of 1 city block (approximately 1 acre). His calculations were based on a project he assigned to his students at Columbia University.
Indoor farming is, of course, nothing new, but as Despommier mentions on the Vertical Farm Web Site, "What is new is the urgent need to scale up this technology to accommodate another 3 billion people." The concept of Vertical Farming solves a multitude of problems; Verticalfarm.com lists 15 advantages. Here are some highlights:
- Year-round crop production: 1 indoor acre is equivalent to 4-6 outdoor acres or more (strawberries for example would be a 1 acre indoor to 30 acre outdoor equivalent
- No weather-related crop loss.
- All VF food is grown organically: no herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers.
- VF virtually eliminates agricultural runoff by recycling black water.
- VF dramatically reduces fossil fuel use (no tractors, plows, shipping).
- VF converts abandoned urban properties into food production centers.
- VF could reduce physical conflicts resulting from battles to control limited resources.