Against Vertical Farming

verticalfarms

Vertical farming is such a large portion of the material on Animal Architecture, and it almost unanimously pro-, that we think it’s only fair to post this new item from eco-geek. That and we had a nagging feeling that eco-urban enthusiasm was getting a little out of hand, at times eclipsing critical thinking. But, for the most part we just love a contentious debate. Briefly:

The inside of a skyscraper is, literally, the most expensive “land” in the world. So it probably isn’t the best place to grow our food.

The idea of vertical farming (growing food in high-rise buildings in the middle of cities instead of out on farms) has been gaining a lot of interest lately. Most recetly, it showed up on BoingBoing, one of our favorite blogs. We’ve seen a few of these proposals, and we’ve been following the concept for some time. It seems EcoGeeky enough, but a quick glance at the actual economics of farming shows that this isn’t ever going to work.

At first, it seems to make all the sense in the world. Moving production of food into population centers to eliminate shipping. Creating highly efficient “food factories” that allow land elsewhere to be freed from cultivation. But when you look at some of the practicalities behind constructing buildings like these, vertical farms make no sense. As the Vertical farm Project itself notes: “The Vertical Farm must be efficient (cheap to construct and safe to operate).” And a vertical farm is the opposite of efficiency.

A farmer can expect his land to be worth roughly $1 per square foot…if it’s good, fertile land. The owner of a skyscraper, on the other hand, can expect to pay more than 200 times that per square foot of his building. And that’s just the cost of construction. Factor in the costs of electricity to pump water throughout the thing and keep the plants bathed in artificial sunlight all day, and you’ve got an inefficient mess.

Check out more from the source along with an impressive and growing thread of comments.

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