Saturday, October 31, 2009

Vertical Farming

A nearly space age concept; skyscrapers dedicated to farming in city environments. These colossal structures would be the ultimate merger between farming and the physical fabric of the city. If the monumental costs of it's construction are overcome these structures could bring in a profit of 18 million dollars per year, using the structure to the right as an example. This investment would have huge payoffs: abundance and ease of access to food, environmentally sound use of space and become a rather fascinating addition to the urban skyline.

Development of these structures would not be the perfect option the trade of would be the challenge of creating an infrastructure to support the fertilization of these vertical farms. With the unsustainable nature of oil based fertilizers in the future maintaining them may be more difficult then anticipated. For now though the hopeful words of Dickson Despommier, an environmental science professor and supporter of the concept, has a pleasing ring "It will free the world from having to worry where our next meal will come from."
Please see the CNN article on vertical farming

Examples of green walls and vertical gardens exist. The primarily ornamental, but studies at the University of Waterloo have shown that green walls can be integrated in to the ventilation to help filter air, features can be used as extra space for the production of food. These examples can take advantage of already existing structures to provide agricultural space on or in structures. These walls also provide the ability to filter partially polluted water(gray water). Instead of being a drain on the hydro system they would boost the cities filtration system.

Picture on the right from Vertigarden a commercial product in England

On the left a green wall at Queens University

Bottom a green wall on the Musée du Quai Branly, in Paris

Examples of urban farming, in the form of backyard gardens have existed in New York and large cities for a long time. New examples exist of this turning in to a profitable activity with low income families selling food to there neighbors. This fresh produce has health benefits for people that often don't get fresh food.

Normally the soil in a city environment that has seen construction is viewed as unusable agriculturally, but some research has shown that if the pH level is kept neutral it can be cultivated.

See New York Times slide show on gardening in the city

Incredible achievements in Cuba in urban farming have lead to the solution to shortages in food because of transportation costs. Large and small communal gardens have vastly benefited local communities.

Urban Agriculture

Urban agriculture is the practice of cultivating, processing and distributing food in, or around a village, town or city.

50% of the world’s population lives in cities.
Brook, R and J. Davila. 2000 The Peri-Urban Interface: A tale of two citites. Bethesda, Wales: Gwasg Ffrancon Printers.

800 million people are involved in urban agriculture world-wide and contribute to feeding urban residents.
UNDP 1996, FAO 1999

Low income urban dwellers spend between 40% and 60% of their income on food each year.
IDRC/ UN-HABITAT.”Guidelines for Municipal Policymaking on Urban Agriculture” Urban Agriculture: Land Management and Physical Planning (2003) 1.3

By 2015 about 26 cities in the world are expected to have a population of 10 million or more. To feed a city of this size – at least 6000 tonnes of food must be imported each day.
Drescher et al. 2000. “Urban Food Security: Urban agriculture, a response to crisis?” UA Magazine (2000) 1.1 >

The development of urban agricultural systems has become a part of the urban fabric. As the population shifts to cities we must develop and study ways that we can accommodate agriculture in high density areas