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Vertical Agriculture On The Up
In the next 40 years, the UN predicts the growth of the world’s population, which will lead to a shortage of agricultural land. Great Stuff Hydroponics believes we can overcome this problem and help reduce the environmental impact of our cities by building vertical hydroponic farming buildings in urban centers.
Food supply is not a problem in the West, where agricultural land is readily available and complex distribution systems are already in place. The UN predicts that by 2050, an additional 3 billion people will live on this planet, approximately 80% of whom will live in urban centers. This presents a problem, especially in developed societies where farmers are dying out and food often has to be transported long distances before it reaches people’s tables.
Right now, some cities are greener than others; Singapore, Hanoi and Havana were listed as food producing cities. While not yet self-sufficient, other cities still have a long way to go. New York, for example, must import almost every bit of food consumed there, and trucking that food into the city every day takes a toll on the environment and is an incredibly inefficient use of resources in a sophisticated society.
According to environmentalists, scientists and hydroponic enthusiasts, the answer is to stop all these wasteful practices by building hydroponic farms, vertically, in the heart of our cities. This would allow the land around our cities to return to a pristine forest or grassland ecosystem, helping to combat global warming and climate change. After all, we have evolved into an urban species with all the methods to produce reliable crops every year with hydroponics at our fingertips. We don’t have to rely on farming to take up large tracts of land, pollute our atmosphere with delivery truck exhaust, and leave our crops to the elements like our ancestors did. Over-farming is a contributing factor to desertification, reduced soil quality and unnecessary harm to native flora and fauna.
There is already considerable public support for city planners and city councils making greener decisions, dedicating themselves to keeping the countryside green and focusing instead on making our cities cleaner and more livable.
dr. Dickson Despommier, a professor of microbiology at Columbia University, originally came up with the idea of the vertical farm project as a solution to future pressure on land and resources and as a way to reduce the carbon footprint of our cities. Since the project began, several eco-friendly ‘vertical farms’ have been designed in New York, Toronto and Paris.
Toronto scientist Gordon Graff has designed a conceptual building known as SkyFarm that would stand at the heart of the city’s theater district. Its 58-story tower design could provide enough food downtown for about 35,000 people every day. It would include a variety of crops, vegetables and fruits, all grown hydroponically, using water instead of soil. During hydroponic growth, plants are fed nutrients dissolved in water in a strictly controlled environment.
The environmental benefits of growing food in vertical greenhouse-like farms in the center of the city would be manifold. Not only are distribution vehicle emissions reduced by growing food where it will be eaten, but there is also no need for plowing, watering and seasonal droughts. Crops are protected from the weather and run off or ‘dirty water’ is removed as the water can be recycled in the building’s hydroponic system.
Additionally, since plants grown hydroponically are in a controlled, soilless environment, there are also no soil-borne diseases or pests to worry about; food in the city could be produced without the need for chemical pesticides or fertilizers.
Hydroponic growth requires only one-twentieth of the water used to irrigate a farm growing the same number of plants, but the yields are higher. Because there is a constant flow of nutrients to the plant, the plant can focus its energy on producing fruit rather than on the roots. Hydroponic lights and a CO2-rich atmosphere can increase food production by promoting photosynthesis and extending the daylight available to plants.
Gordon’s SkyFarm idea would be a completely self-sufficient building powered by solar panels. He also says that inedible plant parts could be composted, producing methane in the process; this biofuel is a source of renewable energy that could be contributed to the local electricity grid. SkyFarm could even be developed into a scientific research facility or an eco-tourism attraction that would create jobs and draw attention to the city as a whole.
The spirit and goals of the Vertical Farm project have been enthusiastically received around the world. The eco-friendly science barge is operated by New York Sun Works to demonstrate to city residents that food can be successfully grown hydroponically in the city. School groups and residential communities were particularly taken with the project, which illustrates how using 14,000 acres of urban solar space on rooftops to hydroponically grow plants could feed 20 million people in and around New York City.
The most exciting aspect of these concept buildings is that they are feasible with technology already available to us. Not only that, but city dwellers who are tired of paying a premium to buy food that has been brought to the city from far away don’t even have to have a roof or a garden. Great Stuff Hydroponics can supply hydroponics kits for beginners along with all the materials and equipment needed by established growers for use in people’s homes. With the right lighting and nutrients, any variety of plant can be grown in water, hydroponically, absolutely anywhere, regardless of the season and climate.
For more information on the Vertical Farm Project, visit http://www.verticalfarm.com. To start growing your own hydroponic fruits and vegetables at home, to purchase hydroponic kits or equipment, and to take advantage of special online offers, visit the Great Stuff Hydroponics website, http://www.hydroponics-hydroponics.com
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