An opposing view on Vertical Farming

Hort Americas believes that both sides should be heard and looked at when it comes to Hydroponics, Vertical Farming, Urban Agriculture and CEA.

And while we at Hort Americas may believe firmly in new “farming” opportunities, we completely understand the Macro view and their potential limitations.

Please take a minute to read this post from Graham Land at and the article by George Monbiot, before you make up your own mind.

In Monday’s Guardian George Monbiot slams the concept of ‘vertical farming’ in a piece, entitled ‘Greens living in ivory towers now want to farm them too’.

His main beef is that a Columbia University parasitologist named Dickson Despommier has been getting a lot of support in the green media for his idea to create skyscraper farms in densely populated urban areas like New York City, which might be a brilliant idea, but it’s a fanciful one as well.

This immediately reminded me of stories about an underground indoor rice farm in Tokyo’s financial district, which turned out to be an expensive publicity experiment.

Monbiot sees vertical farming as a distraction. Water and farmland shortages along with a growing world population bring agriculture and food towards the forefront of environmental issues. Scary stuff in terms of crop failures and resultant starvation for the poor have-nots, but the haves in places like Manhattan are interested in expensive high tech luxury solutions like skyscraper farming?

Despite the impracticality and massive expense the environmental media has been all over it. In a Time magazine article, there is a partial admission of the fault:

“[…] Despommier concedes that it would cost hundreds of millions to build a full-scale skyscraper farm. That’s the main drawback: construction and energy costs would probably make vertically raised food more costly than traditional crops. At least for now.”

Honestly, vertical farming sounds like a cool university project for a designer or architect, but the extent to which it is taken by Despommier seems far from realistic.

I prefer the other kind of urban farming that is happening in Detroit. People move out, abandon houses and land, the remaining folks utilize that land to grow food, which they eat and sell. Brilliant, efficient and not reliant on some expensive high-tech structure in an exorbitantly priced neighborhood. Maybe I’m just completely ignorant, but besides roof gardens, urban gardens or small plots, farming in Manhattan just doesn’t make much sense.

Read about that in this BBC News article:

Urban farming takes root in Detroit

We should be as efficient as we can, but that means behavior suited to the immediate surroundings, not forcing a square peg into a round hole. How about practical solutions like wasting less energy by importing less food? How about growing crops primarily for human consumption rather than wasteful, intensive livestock farming?

Still, if vertical farming happens to work, then fine, knock yourself out.

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