I was reading about urban farming lately – growing food in places where normally you’d see multilevel parking garages take root – when a page on Cuba’s successful urban farms led me to some intriguing designs from Columbia University professor Dickson Despommier, especially his uplifting Vertical Farm page:
Vertical farms, many stories high, will be situated in the heart of the world’s urban centers. If successfully implemented, they offer the promise of urban renewal, sustainable production of a safe and varied food supply (year-round crop production), and the eventual repair of ecosystems that have been sacrificed for horizontal farming.
What is proposed here differs radically from what currently exists; namely to scale up the scope of operations, in which a wide variety of produce is harvested in quantity enough to sustain even the largest of cities without significantly relying on resources beyond the urban footprint. Our group has determined that a single vertical farm with an architectural footprint of one square New York City block and rising just 30 stories (approximately 3 million square feet) could provide enough calories (2,000 cal/day/person) to comfortably accommodate the needs of 50,000 people, and mainly by employing technologies currently available. Constructing the ideal vertical farm with a far greater yield per square foot will require additional research in many areas: hydrobiology, material sciences, structural and mechanical engineering, industrial microbiology, plant and animal genetics, architecture and design, public health, waste management, physics, and urban planning, to name but a few.