Sustainable Cities™

Future city: Vertical farming

Vertical farming is in city food production grown in high-rises. It represents the vision of future sustainable food production, accommodating the prospect of a growing number of people living in future cities. The idea of vertical farming is sustainable on several levels, both in terms of energy, water, transport and waste but also in terms of organically produced food. The first vertical farming project is still to be realized.

Landbrug i etager, 2008, Af Chris Jacobs

An estimate says that by the year 2050, the human population will increase by about 3 billion and nearly 80% of the Earth's population will reside in urban centres. This massive growth in population puts massive demands on future food production. Today food-bearing plants are cultivated outdoors and thus dependent on good weather during a year. Each year massive floods, severe monsoons, class 4-5 hurricanes and long-term droughts are destroying millions of tons of valuable crops.

The anticipation of severe climate change is therefore one of the main driving factors behind the conceptualisation of vertical farming. Farming indoors and hothouse production of vegetables and fruits have been going on for years. What is new is the urgent need to scale up this technology to accommodate another 3 billion people. This new approach to indoor farming is using cutting-edge technologies and thus creating sustainable high-rises minimising the environmental effects of vertical farming.

The idea is to situate many stories high vertical farms in the heart of the world's urban centres. These farms offer the promise of urban renewal through sustainable production of year-round food supply. The provisional project suggestions use solar energy, waste and water regeneration and dramatically reduce fossil fuel use from cultivating land and transporting goods. Besides this, vertical farming products are organically grown, when there is no need to use herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers because of the protected environment.

Behind the idea

A leading scientist within this field is Professor Dickson Despommier from Environmental Health Science at Columbia University in New York. For him, the idea started out as a hypothetical challenge, put to a class of graduate students. The students then hatched a variety of different prototypes and Despommier was inspired to work on the idea, not hypothetically, but as entirely feasible. Since, researchers and architects have created several projects and the idea of vertical farming seems close to realization.

Since then a long range of inspiring and innovative projects are planned for dense urban environments. The Danish foundation for the built environment, Realdania created a competition for projects on future farming, which presented several innovative ideas. Though the winning project is not created in an urban environment, urban farming might learn from the idea of using bodily heat from animals to heat the hothouse were plants are grown. 
Read more:

>> New York: Organic rooftop graden
>> Gothenburg - Creating scenarios for sustainable food
>> Havana: Feeding the city on urban agriculture

>> Todmorden: Vegetables are sprouting up among the flowerbeds in Todmorden

Last updated Tuesday, January 21, 2014