In the future, farming on expansive tracts of rural land will give way to 30-story-high self-sustained, temperature-controlled, organic farms that are only a city block away.
You might be thinking that this is a far-fetched idea from some science-fiction novel, but in fact it’s the very real brainchild of Professor Dickson Despommier from Columbia University. Along with some of his graduate students, Despommier came up with this idea for “vertical farms" in 1999.
Despommier believes that he has devised the perfect solution to the growing food, water and energy crisis: bringing farms to where a majority of the population lives — cities. Building farms vertically will save land and increase the world’s agricultural output.
Despommier envisions vertical farms as multi-leveled greenhouses that are built to skyscraper proportions. His website is full of charts and graphics and presentations — many produced by his graduate students — that presumably show how vertical farms will be able to produce food not typically found in greenhouses, like corn, wheat and even rice. The entire community will be engaged in the project, with a farmer’s market in the building and possibly even a restaurant.
This new type of farming has numerous advantages over more conventional methods. The most obvious advantage is that vertical farms will have year-round production with no worry of weather-related crop failure. They are also more environmentally friendly because there will be no plows, tractors, or shipping necessary. Furthermore, Despommier designed these farms to use alternative energy as their main source of power.
The project is still very much in its developmental stage, but the most up-to-date plans and designs are available on the project’s website.
Planners in cities like New York and Portland see great potential behind the idea and have already started developing vertical farm proposals. Having skyscraper farms in our cities might not be too far away after all.