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vertical farming for feeding the world of the 21st century
By the year 2050, nearly 80% of the earth's population will reside in urban centers. Applying the most conservative estimates to current demographic trends, the human population will increase by about 3 billion people during the interim. An estimated 109 hectares of new land (about 20% more land than is represented by the country of Brazil) will be needed to grow enough food to feed them, if traditional farming practices continue as they are practiced today. At present, throughout the world, over 80% of the land that is suitable for raising crops is in use (sources: FAO and NASA). Historically, some 15% of that has been laid waste by poor management practices. What can be done to avoid this impending disaster? the solution is a very nice idea worth spreading.... I would like to have a TED Talk on this...

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    Apr 14 2011: Jason Aramburu's work with charcoal is already helping those living in hunger community by community to have higher healthier yields in less growing space and building the soils ability to renew itself . . Jasons tecnology could also help improve yields in urban areas among the growing number of urban farmers like the South Bronx Urban Farmer's coalition. I agree with you that vertical growing, not necessarily hydroponic is also promising and interesting as a source of locally grown food for urban areas and that there are many models to look at.You are right that as a global community we need to get higher healthier yields worldwide without chemicals and pesticides that harm the environment.I agree with the Christopher Sceidler, below, that we are not doing a very good job of getting food already available in surplus to those who need it but I also beleieve that sound international policy should look towards locally grown and organic even for urban areas. I hope those with expertise will join you in this important conversation and perhaps point all of us towards existing models and emerging technology..
  • Apr 14 2011: Hi Claudia, even without the projections, I do believe that every country or large region should be able to feed itself. As such, I support farming which serves a local or regional area. The idea of vertical farming or greenhouse farming in general seems practical. There have been technological developments which seem to make this feasible even in cold climates. Year round solar greenhouses are used in cold (but sunny) regions of China and even Nepal. The University of Manitoba has been testing them (one of the places in Canada with the most sunshine). Supplemental energy could come from geothermal or wind sources. I think it is all feasible but are the moment we are bit complacent with the status quo.

    There are also other developments which combine aquaculture and hydroponics in a closed system whereby the nutrient filled waste from the fishponds fertilizes the plants which biologically filter the waste and the water is recirculated to the ponds. Hints of our farms of the future, maybe.
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    Apr 14 2011: There is currently an excess of food produced in the world, it is just a problem of maldistribution. There is little sense in developing new farming methods when we can't fairly share what we already have.

    With that said- I do like the idea of urban farming, though I am a little skeptical of these vertical farms. Food is not fit for factories, industrializing food (like a food tower) seems to be a step in the wrong direction. Vertical farms are putting all your eggs in one basket, I like the idea of urban farming that is spread atop buildings and community parks.
  • Apr 13 2011: Does anyone ever come here and read the propositions that people are making... anyone that has a power to take them where they're supposed to go and make them happen? I wonder..
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    Apr 18 2011: This seems like a great idea but I have to ask a sincere if naive question. Wouldn't getting sufficient sunlight be a big problem due to shadow from the plants above? Would vertical gardening be done on the side of buildings?
    • Apr 19 2011: I Installed a Vertical Growing system at Paignton Zoo ( UK ) for growing salads for the animals that works fine with no lighting, But if done as a commercial venture then we would have a light tunnel for the plants to pass through. In commercial horticulture there are growers who grow crops vertically and by this I mean salad crops such as Lettuce, Pac-Choi and herbs ,. What is often called Vertical growing is crops such as Tomatoes, Cucumbers Peppers ect. Vertical growing on the side of buildings is called living walls, if you grow lettuce herbs ect on these then yes they will grow but for them to be supplied to major outlets in the UK the specifacation would not be upto standard. This would be because the plants would grow out and then uptowards the light and then have a bend on them, Stupid I know but the UK are the worst in the world for doing as we are told even if others do it better. As mentioned I do Vertical growing systems and in the UK there is no help but in the other parts of the world there is grants and help for this .
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        Apr 19 2011: Thank you Grahame for your response to me. Is this concept primarily for the big grower or are people advocating it for feeding large populations in places like China or India where there is substantial urbanization and the costs for transporting greens into the cities is prohibitive?
        • Apr 19 2011: I have developed a system that is based on a commercial growing facility but can be scaled from a container size upto as large as you want , Height wise we can go to 6 meters higher if needed but I would not reccommend it., But trying to get funding is hard and it upsets me when I see millions wasted on pie in the sky systems that will not work commercially.
    • Apr 22 2011: send an e-mail to
      and I will send photos of plants 7 days from sowing if anyone interested
  • Apr 18 2011: A general question for all, since I am not into farming but very interested in sustainable methods. Could you talk a bit about the energy needs. Can they be run entirely from solar/wind etc without the need to tap into the electrical grid? Has anyone used geothermal for supplementary heating? Thanks.
    • Apr 18 2011: Julie
      Geothermal can and is used in some horticultural nurserys with the water going round fixed pipes on a closed loop system. Small units can be run by wind and solar but there is a need for large battery back up.
      Also as I found out the Magnets used in wind turbines are derived from Mongolia and the metal used to make them is killing thousands of people as it has polluted the land and the main river which feeds the local farm land. So although we are energy saving and saving the planet to do this we are killing thousands of innocent people. we just do not make this point for every solution there is pollution.
      • Apr 18 2011: Thanks Grahame. I know of commercial and research facilities that use geothermal energy but I have heard comments on it being very expensive. I saw a writeup on the production of neodymium magnets in Inner Mongolia - appalling situation. As you say, it seems for every step forward in one place, there seems to be a step in the wrong direction somewhere else.
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          Apr 18 2011: Julie Ann, There is a winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario on Hwy 55 that is entirely heated by geothermal energy.
        • Apr 18 2011: Julie
          I saw it first hand as I went out to see if there was a way in which we could get them producing food again, as you say it is disgusting that we as so called civilised treat the third world in this way and cover it up.
          When siemans make huge claims on there wind farms how can they justify the loss of life .
          Well time to get of my soap box no one listens and I can not change the world.
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          Apr 18 2011: I have been researching geo thermal..very efficient and effective but I worry about the need to replace undergorund parts....the key parts....
      • Apr 19 2011: Thanks Debra. I did notice that and it is worth looking into.

        Grahame, I guess there is a lot of blame to go around. We demand clean, renewable energy, the company's bottom line is profit, the governments of the manufacturing countries do not have regulations or do not enforce the regulations. The same scenario is played out in other places as well. I understand your frustration. But congratulations on the work you do, it makes a difference.
  • Apr 17 2011: Hi , I am alway amazed at how people do not know how far advanced Hydroponic growing is In 1998 I was put forward for Farm of the year for growing Cherry Tomatoes Hydroponically without Pesticides or any herbicides and using Biological control. Read here
    I have grown crops inside a building commercally and also used Vertical growing. Before people say it someday could be done remember it more than likely has been done. Commercial growers are growing crops Vertically in glasshouses and sealed Buildings and have been for years.

    We are not talking skyscrapers or fancy designs we are talking designs that work on a crop production basis.
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      Apr 17 2011: awesome..thanks for the post
      • Apr 18 2011: Hi Lindsay have you looked at my web-site www.verticalgrowing
        I have now added that I was Farm of the year awards for 1998/9 for sustainable growing.
        We used |Biological control for pest and we used no chemicals or spraysWe also introduced assured produce which meant that if a customer bought our produce from ASDA we could tell them which green house it came out of and even who picked it. We produced 5 tons of Cherry tomatoes each week and we could colour and size grade 2,500 tomatoes each minute.
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          Apr 18 2011: yes very impresive Grahame..we have a tiny hyproponic grower locally here in Maine, Haight, and the taste of there salad greens is very nice..