Vertical Farming Systems for Urban Agriculture Introduction The agricultural revolution has been ongoing for some , years. Ten thousand years of history may seem like a long time to some, but in terms of human evolution approx. One major advantage of farming over hunting and gathering was apparent from the very beginning, and would become the mantra for millions of people throughout temperate regions of the world—sustainability.
Settling in one place, rather than relying on the abundance of game animals, required us to reinvent how we carried out our daily lives. Farming allowed the food to come to those who opted for a new life in the built environment, and created the luxury of leisure time.
So began the development of modern civilizations Maisels, Civilizations could finally evolve towards realizing their full potential, and many blossomed.
At the same time, the urban environment was rapidly expanding and changing as it grew Mumford, ; Kotkin, Cities underwent extensive transformations, from haphazard collections of temporary living quarters cloth and animal skin tents and flimsily constructed huts and no planning for urban differentiation, to what we have now come to expect from all modern metropolises.
Many of the earliest cities arose adjacent to fields of wheat, barley, millet and rice, and in most instances accommodated farming within their boundaries https: As more and more people became comfortable living in densely settled areas, the populations of city dwellers increased, inevitably encroaching on the very farmland that fostered and nurtured the birth and development of the urban landscape.
This trend was to set into motion an explosion of urbanization that continues to this day http: By the s, the city had achieved its full breadth and depth of specialized zones e. Farming inside the boundaries of the built environment was no longer financially viable. While being able to grow edible plants, particularly grains, jump-started and nurtured the evolution of civilizations, many of the earliest cities were abandoned due to lack of adequate levels of seasonal rain Diamond, http: Settlements within the Fertile Crescent, for example, soon after being founded, felt the effects of a decidedly more arid climate regime, and the wheat farms that first enabled those early settlements to thrive failed.
The same was not true for the ancient Egyptian cities that formed several hundred miles to the west along the banks of the River Nile and its extensive delta system. In many places, the scarcity of water led to the invention of ingenious irrigation systems in an attempt to farm despite changes in natural patterns of weather— Peru, the American southwest, Southeast Asia, Central America Scarborough, Eventually, even these cultures failed to provide enough calories to sustain their struggling populations, again due to the lack of a reliable hydrological cycle.
The Vertical Essay
Today, cities are, for the large majority, clearly separated from the origins of their food sources, with many of the largest ones hundreds to thousands of miles away from the commercial mega-farms that supply them with fresh produce. To compensate for this disconnect, extensive transportation systems arose, and trade agreements between countries that could not grow significant amounts of edible crops e.
Globalization of the food system is now the norm, but confounding factors, the main one being rapid climate change, are still rearranging food networks almost on a monthly basis.
Between , crop failures caused by floods, droughts, insect pests, and microbial plant pathogens http: Volatility in the availability of food has created a constant state of financial chaos for hundreds of millions of people who, by no choice of their own, are forced to live in poverty. For many years, scientists were convinced that the answer to more reliable yields of grain crops lay in better tools for coping with extremes in weather patterns Key, ;Jacobsen, Genetically modified plants have been engineered to be more drought-resistant rice and corn — Gomez, https: Regardless, even if GMOs were somehow to allow most grain crops to overcome the current trend towards a warmer, drier climate, those countries with the greatest need for them China and India, for example could not afford to purchase enough GMO seed to feed their still growing populations.
As depressing as the current situation appears regarding the future of outdoor farming https: CEA is not a new agricultural strategy, having been employed since the late s, but greenhouses are not only what is meant by CEA.
In the past century, greenhouses were typically owned by people living in single-family dwellings in the suburbs, and very few were used for food production.
Within the last fifty years, a robust commercial greenhouse industry has been established https: A new strategy is required. Enter the vertical farm Despommier, ; https: The defining feature of a vertical farm, in contrast to a greenhouse, lies in its height. Simply think of stacking greenhouses on top of each other. The result is a dramatic increase in plant yield, without changing the architectural footprint.
Large commercial vertical farms are capable of producing millions of tons of produce each year https: This chapter will describe and evaluate the methods used to grow edible plants indoors and will present a survey of many of the commercial vertical farms currently operating that employ them. Judging only by the astounding growth of the vertical farm industry over the last five years, vertical farming is projected to become a common feature of the built environment on a global scale within the next ten to twenty years.
For review articles covering the topic of vertical farming, see: Despommier, ; Thomaier, ; Kalantari, ; Esposito, ; Benke, Quite a challenge, considering that Rome routinely experienced cold, snowy winters https: They could then be moved indoors into the royal palace when the frost was on the pumpkin, providing these round, snake-shaped pale green delectables with all the same creature comforts of a world-class dictator.
One of the first stand-alone greenhouses was constructed out of wood in Leiden, The Netherlands, in the early s by Charles Lucien Bonaparte, a renowned French botanist. He used it to culture medicinal tropical plants year-round https: By then the industrial revolution, with Manchester, England at its epicenter Kidd, , was in full swing, and affected all aspects of life in Western Europe.
Along with the invention of a plethora of mechanical devices designed to speed up and improve the efficiency of the manufacturing process, the second agricultural revolution https: In , the Chance brothers invented a mass production system for large sheets of clear glass https: Transparent greenhouses would now be able to demonstrate their full value in CEA. These newly minted all-glass structures provided a year- round haven for all kinds of plants.
The glass enclosed conservatory https: The modern greenhouse evolved along similar lines, and became widely available to a burgeoning middle class throughout Western Europe and America. This situation continued to progress, albeit slowly, as the Western world endured the ravages of the First World War.
Some thirty years later, the Second World War, a much larger set of conflicts involving the entire world, ensued, and placed enormous constraints on Allied forces ability to provide fresh produce for their troops. The lack of unprocessed vegetables and fruit was especially evident in the Pacific Theatre of Operations.
At one point, well into the war, a radical solution to this dilemma was put into action on some of the islands captured by the U. Crop production using this approach was carried out right up to the end of the war. After the armistice in , the U. Army continued to produce crops hydroponically, and in harvested nearly 4, tons of fresh vegetables of various kinds ibid.
This was most likely due to the fact that climate change had not yet ramped up, and did not yet have a significant impact on most global outdoor agriculture. Now in post-war America and in Europe, as well, DDT was being touted as the salvation of modern farmers in their own war against all varieties of arthropod plant pests https: Together with the introduction of modern fertilizers, soil-conserving tilling practices, and rotation of crops, the rise of the agrochemical industry catalyzed a new era in agriculture, ushering in the second green revolution https: As promising as this concerted, technology-driven approach to growing our food appeared, that green revolution was to be short-lived.
For example, as our planet warmed at an ever-increasing rate, microbes responsible for many crippling plant diseases now had a longer time each year to parasitize their crops of choice, resulting in marked decreases in yields of most grain crops https: In addition, insects that fed on corn and various fruits and vegetables had become totally resistant to DDT, and to many related insecticides Oerke, , due to the indiscriminate use and over-use of these powerful invertebrate neurotoxins.
Rachel Carson, in her landmark book, Silent Spring, while not severely chastising the agricultural industry for its penchant for spraying DDT at nearly everything that crawled or flew, correctly identified the linkage between the application of pesticides and the unintended loss of wildlife, mainly birds, with raptor species being particularly hard-hit Bednarz, In addition to the ineffectiveness of most first-generation pesticides, climate change continues to alter where and how much food we can produce.
W5fP9lInaWY , the climate might soon get completely out of control and usher in a era that would adversely affect virtually every living thing on earth https: As predicted, crop failures during the early s were frequent, and food riots were not uncommon features in those countries most affected by them https: The most convincing body of evidence-based data documenting rapid climate change came from decades of observing glaciers around the world https: In only a few places, the central Andes between Chile and Argentina being one, did glaciers not show any signs of retreat.
The vast remainder was melting at an alarming rate, especially as compared to the previous years of observations https: Data derived from the above studies clearly showed that sea level rise was also accelerating https: Cutting back on the use of fossil fuels is one way to slow down the process of climate change. While many countries agree that this is a viable approach, virtually none of the largest consumers of fossil fuels The United States, China, India, and Russia actually practice what they espouse.
A collaborative study conducted in between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the United States Geological Survey using data collected from Landsat 8 satellite observations estimated that there are some three trillion trees on earth Crowther, This may seem like a lot of trees, but that same study estimated that humans have cut down an equal number since the beginning of the agricultural revolution to make room for farmland, settlements, and roads.
More daunting is the fact that although the rate of deforestation has slowed over the past 25 years http: Yet, even in the face of overwhelming agreement from a global community of climate experts warning us against such a course of action, we continue to act in this destructive fashion.
In summary, irrefutable scientific evidence corroborates the conclusion that the earth is under siege from humanity. Two anthropogenic activities explain the root causes of rapid climate change: Regardless of whether or not policies change to bring a halt to these behaviors, we must quickly find alternative means of supplying mass quantities of food to a population that may soon reach nearly 10 billion https: Failure to do so will almost certainly trigger a catastrophic reduction in our numbers caused by an accelerating rate of severe hunger and starvation, increases in vector-borne infectious diseases e.
The seas around us will continue to rise and reclaim the current coastal land it relinquished during the last cool interglacial period some 20, years ago, confounding our efforts to adjust to an ever changing physical landscape. It has the possibility of alleviating much of the suffering caused by poor distribution, shortages, or total lack of food, and offers a long-term sustainable solution to the global food crisis.
The fact that this statement is no longer considered a radical agricultural approach is indicative of the progress that has occurred in just the last five years regarding the establishment of urban farming, including vertical farms VFs. An indication as to VFs current popularity can be found simply by conducting a Google Search for vertical farm. As an example, on October 1, at The eyes of the world are watching and participating in the progress of this new form of food production.
What follows is a brief survey of some of the more well-established VFs throughout the world as of this writing. Some of the first VFs were constructed in Asia. In Japan, commercial VFs were established mainly in response to a catastrophic earthquake 9. Following the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors http: The government rapidly mobilized and established collaborative efforts with research communities at universities that specialize in CEA e.
Within months following the disaster, several VF companies had formed and proceeded to retrofit large abandoned warehouses with indoor grow systems capable of producing large quantities of leafy green vegetables http: As of , the number had grown to several hundred VFs operating in many cities throughout the islands of Japan, with many more in the planning stage that will presumably open over the next five years.
In , a three storey vertical farm training center opened in Suwan, Korea, adjacent to a newly constructed seed bank complex http: The Rural Development Authority intended the VF center to serve as a place that would enable individuals to visit and study prior to embarking on a career in indoor urban agriculture.
The project has been a success and many more training centers throughout Korea are planned for the near future.