Vertical Farms for Vertical Cities
Urban locavores may one day have more local food than they ever dreamed possible, with fruits and veggies coming from their own neighborhood, if not their own block. A new concept in local food production for city dwellers is slowly rising on the horizon: it’s called the vertical farm. Imagine growing food in high-rise buildings with different crops and animals on different floors? That’s more or less what the vertical farm will be like.
According to an article in the New York Times, the Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer is exploring the possibility of building a vertical farm in New York City and is planning “to pitch a feasibility study to the mayor’s office within the next couple of months.”
The concept for a vertical farm was developed by Dr. Dickson Despommier of Columbia University to address the food needs of rising city populations. According to the article, Dr. Despommier estimates that a 30-story tower could feed 50,000 people.
When I spoke to Dr. Despommier about three years ago, his estimate was that a 48-story building on a full-size city block would feed 50,000, and that five such buildings would feed all of New York City. He also noted that when Columbia University first launched its Web site on vertical farms, some 10 venture capital firms were ready to invest in the research.
Dr. Despommier was convinced then that experimental “vertical farms” were only one to two years away. He wasn’t too far off from what I can tell. According to the New York Times article, a scaled down version of a vertical farm won a design contest in Seattle and is being built in Portland, Ore.
Let’s wait and see what Mr. Stringer’s office comes up with. We already know that building one won’t be cheap. The prototype alone has an estimated cost of $20 million to $30 million with an actual 30-story vertical farm costing hundreds of millions. I’ll keep you posted.