Imagine the world in 2050 with almost 80% of the planet’s population living in urban centers and our fruit, vegetables and even animals are grown in … skyscrapers? One man’s vision has sparked a series of designs leading closer and closer to what will be the first real-life vertical urban farm. In the long run such structures may not only provide food for hundreds of thousands of people per building but they will also relieve much of the burden on other flat landscapes where fewer and fewer usable growing spaces exist.
A decade ago, Dr. Dickson Despommier, Ph.D., Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia University, developed a concept of urban agriculture utilizing specially designed high rise buildings to maximize food production in a minimal footprint. Despommier and his students refer to this concept as Vertical Farming . The idea was developed as a potential solution in response to the colliding mega trends of rapidly increasing human population, ever-diminishing natural resources and world hunger.
The basic concepts behind Dr. Despommier's vision of the urban vertical farm involve increasing food production and bringing it closer to people in urban populations while simultaneously reducing the environmental impact of agriculture. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reports that food production will have to be doubled to feed a population approaching 9 billion by the year 2050. In 2005, the agricultural yield for one hectare of land could sustain 4.5 persons. However, it is estimated that agricultural yields will have to increase by over 40% per hectare by 2050 as there is not enough arable land to meet the required growth at current production levels.