Sunday, October 4, 2015

Food in the Future: Vertical Farming

The Problem:
In order to feed the world's population, as it stands today, a land mass or surface area the size of South America is needed to farm the amount of food necessary to feed everyone. As our world's population grows, we will run out of acreage for farming, thus run out of food if we don't find a better way to farm. Currently 80% of our earth's land that is suitable for farming, is being used. And, 15% of land used for farming has gone to waste due to poor farming practices and inefficient land management. Although we, as a civilized species, have figured out a way to create a reliable food source by farming in 10,000 years, it has been at the expense of earth's natural ecosystems.

It is predicted that by 2050, 80% of the earth's population will live in urban areas. People will have to figure out a way to grow enough crops to sustain our growing population and also have the food grown close to where people live to avoid having to transport food to urban centers. Exploring vertical farming will be necessary in order to have enough room to plant crops to produce enough food to feed the world's population. Instead of farming horizontally, we will construct urban food production centers. Farming would take place either inside or on the outside, or both, of tall buildings. The crops on the inside would not be subject to weather conditions because they would exist in a climate controlled environment. So, year round farming could take place.

The Solution: My Forecast
People will grow their own food vertically on/in buildings – their homes and/or workplaces. Since there will not be enough land left horizontally, people will have to take their farms skyward.

Food production would exist vertically on and in the buildings we live and work in by using emerging technologies. Benefits include: reducing land use, cooling our own heat sinks, and reduce food transport costs. Long term benefits could include the gradual repair of earth's damaged ecosystems because farmlands, as we now know them could be abandoned and left to heal and return back to their original states. Hardwood forests could regrow in temperate and tropical zones and help with capturing excess carbon and possibly even reverse global climate change. Urban farming could provide employment opportunities and take advantage of abandoned lots and buildings by repurposing them for the sole use of urban vertical farming. Cities or urban areas would enjoy cleaner air because the crops would help reduce carbon emissions in the air.

Research has shown that 300 square feet is enough space to grow food in, thus providing nutrition, at 2,000 calories per day, for one person. A building that is 30 stories tall has ample surface area to easily provide for 10,000 people using current technologies. Imagine where advancing technologies could lead us!

Global- Benefits to the earth: earth is allowed to return to natural biomes, self-sustainable population. Wars caused by land ownership and natural resource ownership would end. World peace!
National- Every country would become less reliant on imported foods, and completely reliant on self-sustaining farming methods.
Local- Urban coops develop and people work together in vertical farming for the better of the human population, instead of profit.

2 years- Technology in urban vertical farming develops rapidly. Cities start to see the emergence of vertical farm architecture.
20+ years- 75% of the earth's population is involved in some capacity in vertical farming. Building structures in major cities produce 100% of the food needed to sustain itself. Agricultural architecture is mainstream.
100+ years- 100% of the earth's population is growing their own food. World hunger ends. Vertical farming is the norm. Human biology and societies would start to evolve based on regional adaptations. People grow suction cups on their hands and/or feet to adapt to scaling vertical farmland. Nature would be allowed to take its natural course, instead of one that is forced by human destruction. Humankind peacefully co-exists. :)

Possible Positive Outcomes:
- Enough food and water to sustain the earth's population
- Human effect on global warming ends; thus allowing us ample time to adapt to earth's natural cycles
- People could have their own urban farm built into their dwelling
- Urban farm communities could be developed-great way to create a sense of community camaraderie
- Opportunities to share crops, a more productive and healthier farming cooperative model emerges, reducing the need for marketing and bargaining
- Kids could be trained early in life to be responsible for their own food supplies, creating a self-sustaining culture
- New specialized job opportunities for urban farming and related fields:

  • urban farmer
  • municipal liquid/water waste specialist for farming
  • urban crop harvester
  • urban farm structure architects 
  • engineers to develop equipment to plant, irrigate and harvest crops

Possible Negative Outcomes:
- The collapse of one 30-story building could lead to the destruction of food 10,000 people
- Urban farming centers could be possible target for terrorist attacks
- Natural disaster (earthquakes) could lead to the downfall of an entire urban farming center if structures could not withstand natural conditions
- Corporations would take over the buildings and control food supplies (not unlike today)
- People are scared of change and resist this idea
- Agricultural structures are too expensive to produce

Region of the Future:
Nature-tech, Bio-tech, Enviro-tech, People-tech

1. How would this affect large farming co-ops as we know them today?
2. How does the engineering of agricultural structures add to the cost of building the structures?
3. How will these structures affect the landscape of the city?
4. How could our bodies adapt to vertical farming?

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Just keeping things on the up and up since this is for my students to communicate first.